Women's Healthcare Discussions
Sometimes women are given incorrect information, such as never lift more than ten pounds, or that they can’t ever play golf or lift their children or grandchildren. We’re providing this fact sheet to help women with breast cancer know about recovering from breast cancer treatment and how to get help when they need it.
FACT: Chronic neck, shoulder and arm problems are very common after treatment. Of those breast cancer patients who have surgery, 7 out of 8 experience some type of ongoing problems with shoulder or arm function.
FACT: After treatment, 60% of women have numbness, 40% have weakness, 45% have pain in the underarm and/or chest wall, an average of 15% develop swelling, 12% have shoulder movement problems or arm stiffness. Sometimes these problems fade away over time, but without specific attention, they can last for years.
FACT: Women’s bodies naturally compensate for problems like numbness, weakness, pain, swelling, and arm stiffness. Women often don’t realize that moving “good enough” does not mean the movement is normal, or that these limitations have to be permanent.
FACT: Women are often afraid to use their affected arm after surgery. Even when their physician urges them to “use it like normal”, they worry they’ll develop lymphedema (swelling) or hurt themselves. Many women are unable to achieve “normal” without guidance from a physical therapist.
FACT: Several recent studies have shown that exercise is not only safe but also important for recovery. Women who perform shoulder exercises have fewer arm and breast pain, more strength, better self-esteem, improved quality of life, less swelling, and better use of their arm. Resistance exercise is started at low intensity and increased gradually.
Keep reading to see if you need additional help with your recovery....
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED PHYSICAL THERAPY?
* Is your arm tight and you just didn’t realize it? Try these two exercises: 1) standing with your back against the wall, lift your arm straight up overhead until your thumb touches the wall. 2) Standing with your back against the wall, raise your arm up and out to the side, keeping your arm against the wall, until your upper arm touches your ear. If you feel tightness in your chest, arm, or underarm, and can’t reach that far, physical therapy can help you regain your flexibility.
* If you have noticed that your posture has gotten worse, or your neck and shoulder feel tight, physical therapy can help you improve your posture.
* If you’ve been afraid to do housework or lifting activities—heavy groceries, kids, household items—or if you want to return to the gym but are concerned that you might feel pushed to do too much, ask a physical therapist to design a home exercise program specifically for you.
Let our skilled and compassionate Women's Healthcare therapists help you on your road to recovery and wellness.