Breast Cancer Rehab

breast cancer rehab

Breast cancer is the fourth-most diagnosed cancer in Grey Bruce, after prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. It has the highest incidence rate of all cancers among females, accounting for 25.6% of new diagnoses. 
Research shows that breast cancer survivors experience many physical and emotional issues during and after breast cancer treatments involving surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. 
There is substantial evidence to support that physiotherapy-based rehabilitation for patients with breast cancer can improve their quality of life and decrease long term impact of impairments. 

What are the components of breast cancer physio rehab? 
The primary components of breast cancer physio rehab are,  

Combined decongestive therapy (CDT) for lymphedema
Lymphedema is a potential side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy. Surgery and radiation can cut off or damage some of the lymph nodes that otherwise serve to drain the lymphatic fluid resulting in Lymphedema. 

CDT or combined decongestive therapy is a commonly used treatment for management of lymphedema. 
It involves: manual lymph drainage, application of compression garments, exercises, education and self management.  

Restoring range of motion, strength and function:
With surgery the neck, chest and arm in general is affected. Manual therapy and appropriate exercises can help to improve and maintain the mobility, strength and function. 

Pain: post surgical and post radiation:
Surgery/radiation may cause damage to the soft tissues and nerves resulting in pain and associated dysfunction. This can be managed well with appropriate manual therapy and modalities.  

Cancer related fatigue

Research shows that cancer related fatigue can be addressed effectively with education on energy conservation techniques and appropriate exercises. 

Chemo induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN): 
CIPN causes pain, loss of function as well as balance issues which can be managed effectively with physiotherapy.  

When can we start breast cancer physio rehab? 
Breast cancer physio rehab can commence immediately postmastectomy, post-lumpectomy, after reconstructive surgery and during (and following) both chemotherapy and radiation. 
Physiotherapy can be started while still continuing to follow precautions under the guidance of a physiotherapist with knowledge and skill in Cancer rehab.  

Would I benefit with Breast Cancer Physio Rehab?  
Do you feel tightness in your armpit and chest with arms up over head? 
Do you see or feel thin cord-like bands in your armpit? 
Do you notice fluid collecting and/or thickening in your incision area? 
Do you feel your arm, mainly the forearm is swollen? 
Does your arm brush against swelling on the side of your chest? 
Do you notice weakness, achiness / heaviness or fatigue in your arm as your activity levels increase? 
Do you have any discomfort from expanders or implants after reconstructive surgery? 
Do you ever feel off-balance or dizzy? 
Do you experience tingling or numbness in your extremities? 
Are you feeling generally weak or is your fatigue disproportionate to the activity you are doing?  

If any of the above applies to you. You would benefit with Breast Cancer Physio Rehab. 

1. Grey Bruce Health Unit. (2014). Breast Cancer in Grey Bruce. Ontario: Grey Bruce Health Unit. 
2. Siew YL et al. Methods to improve rehabilitation of patients following breast cancer surgery: a review of systematic reviews. Breast Cancer. 2015; 7:81-98. 
3. Sharon K et al. The implications of women’s activity limitations and role disruptions during breast cancer survivorship. Women’s Health 2018; 14 
4. Koehler LA et al. Function, Shoulder Motion, Pain, and Lymphedema in Breast Cancer with and Without Axillary Web Syndrome: An 18-Month Follow-Up. Phys Ther. 2018 Jun 1; 98(6):518-527.


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