You & Your Body
As you fight in the war against this disease, it will feel like you are up against not only the disease itself, but the treatments as well due to the numerous side effects you might experience from these treatments. Here are a number of things you can use as ammo to ward off the most common side effects associated with this battle...
Cancer causes pain. So does surgery. Combine this pain with fatigue from chemo and radiation and you get a drop in your activity level. So how can you fight when you can’t even move? The answer is simple: Physical Therapy. “What does physical therapy have to do with breast cancer?” you say. “Is a physical therapist going to massage it away?” you say. Not quite. But a physical therapist does play an important part in getting your activity level back up, especially after surgery, and maintaining it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Therapy:
(As answered by physical therapist, Cathy Tarte)
What is physical therapy?
The main thing is that it is education on your body. It involves the strengthening of your muscles after surgery and getting your range of motion back. But also some of the women we get here are at a high risk of osteoporosis. The reason why is because the chemo puts them in early menopause. So the key thing is to find a balance. Each case is different, so we have to look at the whole picture. The goal is for these women to be able to live their lives.
What are the risks and benefits of physical therapy?
There are no real risks associated with physical therapy, particularly if done correctly. Yet there are so many benefits. It helps you to get back on your feet. It gives you empowerment to bounce back from surgery. And light exercising when you are on chemotherapy or radiation therapy can help you fight fatigue and make you feel better.
Is it painful?
No, there might be a little pulling and stuff, but if it is done correctly it shouldn't hurt. It is nothing like a frozen shoulder... that hurts.
What kind of exercises do you do?
That depends on each person, every body is different. It's not like a cookbook where you just get a recipe and make it. But most exercises are focused on range of motion and flexibility.
How long do you need to go?
That again depends on the case. But my preference is to see them at least a couple of sessions after surgery. It also depends if the patient does all the exercises we give them.
Is it covered by insurance?
There are obviously different insurances, but it has been my experience that both physical therapy and lymphedema therapy are covered by insurance.
What is lymphedema?
All right, first things first. Most women do not get lymphedema. But let's see. Your body has a system called the lymphatic system. This system gets rid of the waste in your body. Say you work out, your body produces waste and the lymphatic system carries it away. When you have surgery, often the doctor takes some of the lymph nodes out (axillary dissection) because breast cancer can spread to these lymph nodes. This means your body will have a harder time getting rid of the waste. And sometimes this can result in the waste sitting in your arm, back, or breast, causing the affected area to swell. This is called lymphedema. Not to be mistaken with post-surgical swelling. But when in doubt, see a specialist.
How do you treat it?
There are a few things we can do. Manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging, and/or a special sleeve are the choices. But the most important thing is prevention. You can do yoga, train your breathing, learn how to stretch. Then there are the support groups for lymphedema as well. Whatever regimen you decide to do.
The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.