by Jennifer Unterreiner, DPT, OCS, CLT (Certified Lymphedema Therapist)
Breast cancer affects 1 in every 8 women at some point in her lifetime, and is one of the leading causes of death in women across the United States. With so many different types of breast cancer in existence, the type of treatment and long term impact can vary dramatically. This results in the need for skilled care and attention from a comprehensive treatment team in order to address each area that is affected by the disease itself or a side effect from the various treatment options.
The role of physical therapy can differ based on what the individual's needs are and what point they are at in the cancer journey. From post-surgical management after either lumpectomy or mastectomy and after reconstruction, to managing side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, to restoring global function and minimizing residual treatment side effects, physical therapy can play a major role in the recovery process.
Research shows that patients who are able to stay active during their treatments have lower rates of complications, improved long term health outcomes and decreased rates of recurrence. Physical therapists who are skilled in the identification and management of the numerous issues and potential complications that arise during the treatment can help maintain function and plan accordingly to minimize loss during treatment, as well as act to provide a physical outlet for stress management that's crucial during the journey and recovery.
Over the course of this series, we'll explore and discuss different components of recovery - both short and long term - in order to provide you with a comprehensive picture of how to navigate the complex world of breast cancer recovery. Please reach out with additional questions!