Have a Breast Cancer Operation
This article will complete my explanation of what to expect and the questions to have answered before finalizing a decision on having a breast cancer operation. Here are some questions you may have that should be answered by your doctor prior to the operation. I have provided some insight into the likely answers, but you need specifics and only your doctor and the hospial where the operation will take place can provide you with that information.
Questions to Ask Your
Doctor Before Deciding On A
Breast Removal Operation
When can I begin to do exercises after my operation? Your doctor will guide you in this matter but you can usually begin carefully planned exercises as early as 24 hours after surgery. Your nurse will also be able to provide you with exact information about which exercises are best for your situation.
Why do I need to exercise after my operation? Several reasons. Exercises can help you regain motion and strength in your shoulder and your arm. They can also help decrease the stiffness and pain in your neck and back. If you have had lymph nodes removed there are certain kinds of exercises you will need to do to help prevent or reduce lymphedema, a swelling of your arm and hand due to buildup of fluid.
What are some of the exercises I can expect to perform first? Remember that you do these exercises only to the point of pulling or pain. Do Not Push Yourself!
Breathing exercises. Practice deep breathing while lying on your back. Do this three or four times, breathing deeply and relaxing.
Hand stretches. Flex your fingers. Rotate your wrist in a circle. Touch your fingers to your shoulder and, holding them there, lift your bent arm straight out.
Shoulder and head rotations. Rise your shoulders and rotate them to the front. Now rotate them to the back. Try going from back to front in a circular motion. Slowly rotate your head in a circular direction, then move it from left to right, then from front to back. It will help to loosen your neck, back, chest, and shoulder muscles.
When can I do more active exercising? Depending on your doctors guidance, you can usually expect to begin doing more active exercises after the stitches and drains have been taken out. Your American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery volunteer can also give you exercise information. Start gradually and work up to doing each exercise five times a day, then increasing until you do a maximum of twenty times per day per exercise. If you get tired, be sure to rest before continuing.
How long will it take before I get the full motion and strength back to my arm and shoulder? It could be two or three months, depending on the kind of treatment you have had. Over time, as you exercise, the numbness under your arm will decrease, but total feeling may not return for a long time.
Will all the pain, numbness and tingling sensations ever disappear? Yes, they most likely will. However, some women continue to have symptoms up to a year after the operation.
Will I be able to shave under the arm where I have had the lymph node dissection? You should probably refrain from shaving and from using deodorants for two to four weeks. Your doctor or nurse can advise you when you can start using strong deodorants or depilatory creams and when you can begin shaving the affected area.
Are there any new treatments for lymphedema? A type of massage, called manual lymph drainage, which has been used in Europe for many years, is now also being used in the US. Check with the National Lymphedema Network which provides information about lymphedema and the locations of centers in the country for its treatment. It also offers a netpals and a penpals link for people who wish to discuss the topic with others who have a similar situation. Their on-line URL is http //www.lymphnet.org/.
The most important thing you can do to answer any questions and concerns that you may have is to carefully read the currently available literature. For expanded information on these and other topics relating to breast cancer I highly recommend the book “Choices” by Marion Morra and Eve Potts published by Avon Books. Much of the information provided here was derived from this book. Its available at your local library.
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