Written by: Tiffany Kennedy, PT DPT, Research Park Clinic Director
When I heard that I had breast cancer, I quickly learned that I could not focus on things that I could not control, but had to take full charge of those that I could. I had to advocate for myself and my needs.
I was assigned a team to navigate my course of treatment, my long journey. The one person that was not assigned, but that I was glad I knew about, was a physical therapist. Thankfully, I am a therapist and have access to the best team of them at Nesin Therapy Services. Then I began to think about those who do not know the benefits that therapy can have post surgery. I knew that I should check my mobility in my shoulder prior to surgery to get a baseline of where I needed to return. I knew to take measurements along my arm to be sure I was not developing lymphedema. I knew that once the incision was healed and I had any pulling at my incision site (scar), that I could do gentle scar mobilization to alleviate pain. I knew what exercises to do and at what point to progress my shoulder mobility. I knew what to do with the pillows when I could not get comfortable at night. I knew when to start strengthening my shoulder and forearm muscles. I knew to watch my posture when sitting, not give into the pain in what we therapists call a protected position. I knew that as much as I wanted to, that I could not hold my arm when walking and needed to use a natural arm swing. I knew what stretches to do when having muscle spasms. I knew a lot of things, but it’s because I am a therapist.
Most of you are not therapists, but having one on your team can greatly affect your pain and functional outcomes after surgery. Ultimately, I am fortunate because I knew what physical therapy could do for me and how important it was to keep a check on everything. I urge you or anyone you know going through breast cancer surgery to not accept anything less than the mobility that you had before. Ask for a physical therapy referral from either the surgeon or even a family doctor. Although this has been a journey for me, I know at the end I won’t have any mobility or shoulder problems related to my surgery because of Physical Therapy.
For more information on how we can help, view our PT After Breast Cancer handout.