Physical Therapy Month + Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Paired for Care
By Dr. Frank J. Scerbo, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS
Breast Cancer Awareness
Since Physical Therapy Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month both occur in October, we want to highlight the important role of physical therapy in helping breast cancer patients manage pain and fatigue and re-build strength, before, during, and after treatment. At Scerbo, our physical therapists understand that breast cancer treatments such as surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy take a toll on the body and mind. These treatments can lead to taxing side effects both physically and psychologically.
Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment
1. Scar tissue adhesions
2. Pain: shoulder, chest, back, neck or arm
3. Restricted ROM or stiffness of the shoulder, neck, spine
5. Weakness and fatigue
7. Axillary Web Syndrome (cording)2
8. Bowel and Bladder changes
9. Dyspareunia (pain with intercourse)
10. Postmastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS)3
Even before surgery, physical therapy can help. Prehabilitation is defined as the time of care that occurs between the time of diagnosis and actual cancer treatment. Evidence is showing that prehabilitation can improve psychological and physical outcomes of treatment. The goal of physical therapy in prehabilitation is to:
1. Assess baseline measurements: ROM of shoulders spine, and circumference of both upper extremities.
2. Identify any impairments that may affect recovery such as muscle weakness, postural dysfunction, and pain.
3. Educate in lymphedema and risk reduction.
4. Establish an exercise program prior to and after surgery.
The goal of physical therapy after surgery and during cancer treatment (radiation, chemotherapy) is to minimize the side effects listed above and to optimize function. We are trained to evaluate these impacts and, together with you, set goals and create a therapy plan according to your needs.
Your physical therapy sessions might include:
• Manual stretching hands-on treatment design to help the joints, muscles, fascia, and scar.
• Lymphedema Treatment to prevent and treat lymphedema (swelling of the body’s tissues due to fluid buildup)
• Postural Training to address the postural changes after surgery with postural-specific exercises and ergonomic assessments.
• Exercise programs to minimize, or eliminate the side effects of treatment. (Strength and flexibility exercises, along with instructions for how to do them at home)
If you are experiencing lymphedema, your Scerbo PT can use a treatment plan called complete decongestive therapy to help improve the flow of lymphatic fluid. This may include light massage to encourage drainage, compression bandaging, and information on skin and nail hygiene to help avoid infection.
Your physical therapist will also show you how to safely get back to daily activities with less discomfort, better movement, and more energy. Individualized exercise training, designed to be safe and sensible for you at each stage of recovery, has been shown to be an effective therapeutic intervention to help cancer survivors.
Above all, our physical therapists at Scerbo Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation are committed to your continued recovery. As therapy progresses, we will help you begin to take over your own care and move back into daily life. Please don’t hesitate to seek help from our highly trained therapists as you go through or recover from breast cancer treatment. To find out more about what we do, call our Edgewater, NJ office, (201) 941-2240.