Rehab after Breast Surgery
Many women experience virtually no pain, discomfort or limitations after surgery for breast cancer. (Obviously, everyone is uncomfortable immediately after surgery; I am thinking about the weeks and months ahead.) Although I still feel a pulling on my side when I raise my arm straight above my head, that has been true since the lumpectomy in 1993. The mastectomy in 2005 did not make it worse in any way. I always encourage women to have at least a one time consultation with a physical therapist who can teach a lot about exercises to regain full range of motion and strength. Meeting with Nancy Roberge,DPT made a world of difference for me before the mastectomy; I went into the surgery feeling prepared.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. Especially women who have reconstruction often have ongoing arm or shoulder issues. This is an excellent article from Living Beyond Breast Cancer about physical rehab. Per usual, I am giving you the introduction and a link to read more:
Physical Rehabilitation After Breast Cancer
BY ROBIN WARSHAW, FOR LBBC
ollowing a bilateral mastectomy, Dana Stewart could barely move her arms up and down.
The 32-year-old needed to use a stool to reach the kitchen faucet for water and stand on tiptoe to touch the counter. "My arms were so useless, I couldn't lift anything," she says. "It was painful. Anything I did caused trouble."
Dana had considered herself to be in good condition doctors specializing in physical medicine and cancerbefore her breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. Her usual routine after work had been to run or walk for an hour in her Milwaukee neighborhood.
That's why she believes she was "in denial" about the physical toll treatment would take. "I thought this surgery and cancer affects [only] my breasts," Dana says. "I thought my arms would be fine."
Treatment Side Effects
Breast cancer surgeries for treatment or reconstruction can produce shoulder and arm problems like Dana experienced. Surgery also may cause pain, muscle weak- ness, numbness, hardening of scar tissue or lymphedema (swelling)—among other physical side effects. Weight gain, fatigue and depression are com- mon. Radiation and chemotherapy can also bring on some of these physical challenges. Some of these impacts are temporary and fade over time; others are chronic or ongo- ing, or can develop years after treatment.