Returning to “You” after Breast Cancer

Any breast cancer survivor will tell, overcoming cancer is a journey. Surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can cause fatigue, pain, weaknesses, sensory loss and limited shoulder movement.

Breast cancer rehabilitation helps patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer or those who are long finished with treatment, improve their symptoms and get back to life before a cancer diagnosis. It is especially beneficial for patients who have experienced:

  • A mastectomy
  • Certain lumpectomies
  • Radiation or chemotherapy treatments
  • Swelling or lymphedema
  • Decreased arm movement and tightness in the shoulder and chest area

Road to recovery

Susan Abbott, physical therapist with Total Rehab Care or TRC, meets with patients to understand their concerns, assess their range of motion and take baseline measurements for possible swelling. Patients may also meet with an occupational therapist for help with managing fatigue, stress, self-care and daily living tasks. A massage therapist is available for soothing aches and pains and improving a feeling of physical well-being.

“Right away, patients understand when it’s safe to exercise and how to overcome their limitations,” says Susan. “Meeting with a physical therapist gives patients a peace of mind knowing they’re not going to do something harmful to their surgical site.”

Women who participate in rehabilitation rebuild endurance, experience less pain and improve range of motion in the shoulder area. Rehabilitation can also help women reduces anxiety and depression and maintain a positive attitude which is key to recovery.

“I like to see breast cancer patients early in their cancer journey so I can give them postural tips and be on the lookout for swelling,” says Susan. “The guidance patients get from physical therapy can carry them through their entire treatment cycle.” Susan, a certified lymphedema therapist, completed extensive training in the management of lymphedema and evidence-based training in oncology rehabilitation.

“Treating patients with breast cancer is a passion for me,” says Susan. “I love being a part of a woman’s recovery process.”

Coordinated care

At Meritus Center for Breast Health, nurse navigators work with breast surgeons to identify patients who may benefit from rehabilitation and refer patients to TRC. Nurse navigators coordinate therapy appointments with TRC physical therapists so patients can participate in rehabilitation before chemotherapy or radiation treatment sessions.

Cancer patients and survivors no longer need to accept physical limitations caused by cancer treatment as the new normal. Ask you primary care provider or oncologist about cancer rehabilitation or call TRC at 301-714-4025.