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Christina Scott, PT
Physical Therapy and Breast Cancer Management
La Plata Physical Therapy, Inc.
. http://laplatapt.com/

Physical Therapy and Breast Cancer Management

About one in eight U.S. woman will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. Depending on the diagnosis, an oncology team will determine an individualized treatment plan. For some woman this will involve surgery intervention of lumpectomy or mastectomy and/or lymph node removal. Effects of surgery that can occur include pain, tightness, postural changes and restrictions of shoulder motion. A combination of these changes can make carrying out day-to-day tasks difficult.

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Once given clearance from the surgeon, physical therapy can be initiated. A light, gentle exercise program is important to improve mobility of the shoulder, strength and posture and to reduce pain and tightness felt at surgical sites. Increased ROM of the shoulder joint will also make treatments for radiation (if needed) easier as well as returning to everyday activities. Manual services performed by a therapist include soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release and stretching to regain the motion that was present before surgery.

Some breast cancer survivors will experience lymphedema, which is swelling in the arm of their affected side, after having lymph nodes removed during surgery. If lymphedema has been diagnosed a certified lymphatic therapist can carry out treatments such as lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging to reduce the swelling in the arm. At conclusion of lymphedema treatments, the patient should progress to a maintenance phase, to include a pump and compression garments.

The role of physical therapy is to assist woman during their recovery to regain prior level of function and comfort so that they can return to all the activities that they enjoyed prior to their diagnosis.

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