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Breast Cancer and Physical Therapy

Just because October is almost over doesn’t mean the fight against breast cancer is over! One in eight women and one in one thousand men will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of a lifetime. Survivorship is on the rise thanks to early detection and improvements in the treatment of breast cancer. Treatment options include surgeries (biopsy, lumpectomy, mastectomy, reconstruction), radiation and/or chemotherapy. These treatments can lead take a toll, both physically and psychologically.

Physical side effects of treatment include:

  • Scar tissue adhesion
  • Pain in the shoulders, chest, back, neck or arm
  • Restricted range of motion or stiffness of the shoulder, neck, spine
  • Lymphedema (swelling of lymph nodes)
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Neuropathy (numbness and tingling)

 

How can physical therapy help?

Physical therapy can help in many ways. Manual therapy is a type of hands-on treatment where the therapist manipulates, stretches and massages muscles and joints. It can help break up scar tissue, mobilize stiff joints and muscles and increase range of motion.

Physical therapy can also help with lymphedema treatment with modalities such as manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, clothing evaluation. Therapists can also teach exercises to do at home to help alleviate the swelling.

In the later stages of physical therapy treatment, patients work on strengthening muscles to combat weakness and fatigue. Therapists will also provide individualized exercise programs to increase strength and motion.

Physical therapy is an important component of rehabilitation and can help patients get back to normal activity in a faster and safer way!