Breast cancer affects millions of women worldwide, leaving a profound impact on their physical and emotional well-being before, during and after treatment. While they are necessary for curing breast cancer, treatment like chemotherapy, radiation treatment or hormone therapy can have significant side effects. Common side effects and symptoms include pain, cancer-related fatigue, lymphedema, muscle weakness, peripheral neuropathy, and brain fog.
Surgeries like a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or breast reconstruction can also take a toll on the body and the psyche. Physical therapy can play a huge role in preventing or decreasing side effects like loss of range of motion, weakness, lymphedema or pelvic floor related issues, which are all common in women undergoing treatment or in remission.
Here are some ways that PT can help:
1. Pain Management. Especially post surgical procedures, physical therapy can play a vital role in pain reduction through techniques like massage, exercises, and provide lifestyle modifications.
2. Restoring Range of Motion. Surgical procedures and radiation therapy can result in limited shoulder and arm mobility. A good physical therapist can assist in restoring full function of body parts impacted.
3. Managing Lymphedema. Lymphedema/swelling is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment. A therapist trained in lymphatic drainage can teach survivors techniques to manage swelling through manual lymphatic drainage, compression therapy, and prescribed exercises, especially breathing techniques.
4. Improving Strength and Conditioning. Cancer treatments can cause muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. A focus on rebuilding strength through progressive resistance exercises, endurance training, and functional activities is so important during this time. Appropriate exercise can also help manage fatigue, anxiety and depression.
5. Enhancing Balance and Coordination. Certain breast cancer treatments can lead to peripheral neuropathy which may impact balance and coordination. Specific exercises and balance training can help to improve stability and reduce the risk of falls, ultimately restoring confidence in daily activities.
6. Improve cognitive function. Aerobic exercise is important for oxygenating your brain. As a physical therapist trained in breast cancer rehab, I provide my clients with tools for brain training and stress reduction to improve cognitive function.
7. Pelvic floor function. Treatment can also affect pelvic floor function. Many women post breast reconstruction involving an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) can have complaints of pelvic floor dysfunction quickly or years later. As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I can coach you on certain exercises/techniques to eliminate pelvic floor dysfunction.
As with anything, having more knowledge about your condition and treatment can allow you to feel more confident and safe in your body. I always discuss with women undergoing treatment or preparing for surgery things to expect and strategies to help with recovery. This can provide huge emotional and psychological relief because the unknown is scary. You are never alone in this journey.
To learn more about Breast Cancer Rehab and other forms of holistic healing, contact me at Activcore Denver.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.