Physical Therapy and Breast Cancer

October is known for being Breast Cancer Awareness month, but is also National Physical Therapy Month. The two can go hand in hand. During this month people focus on the cancer itself, raising awareness for diagnosing it early, and celebrating those that have come through it. For those out there that are currently dealing with breast cancer, physical therapy can be a great way to help with the healing process!

Most people think that physical therapy is only for those with a sport injury or work injury, and do not associate it with health in general. But you don’t have to have an “injury” to see a PT. People who are receiving treatment for breast cancer, or any cancer, go through many different changes in their body. Many of the treatments can cause significant fatigue and make the person sick, reducing their ability to move around. Those that require surgery must go through a recovery process that also saps energy and can reduce mobility in the body. 

For breast cancer in particular there are many specific problems that can arise that physical therapy can assist with. Scarring is a major source of discomfort. Following lumpectomies and total mastectomy there is scarring that can reduce mobility of the shoulder and chest wall making breathing and raising the arms over head difficult. Often  there is removal of lymphnodes from the arm pit area. Lymphnodes help to process and remove fluid from body. When they are removed a condition called lymphoedema can occur that causes excessive swelling in the arm, hand, neck, chest wall and even the abdomen that can reduce mobility, and your ability to use your hands, as well as retaining fluid within the body that can put undue stress on your joints. The stress of dealing with all of these changes as well as coping with the diagnosis can cause tightness in the muscles and lead to headaches, back pain, and other stress related problems.

If you or someone you know is going through cancer treatment, there is help for the physical symptoms that occur with the treatment as well as dealing with the long term effects of treatment. Please make sure that you are getting the help you need to treat all aspects of you body, mind, and soul. Talk with a physical therapist today!