October is not only physical therapy month, but also breast cancer awareness month. Women, and men, across America are more aware now than ever before of the effects, treatment methods and choices provided after surgery. There are walk-a-thons, support groups, websites, television specials and even pink ribbons to bring awareness to all, along with the increase in treatment options for those suffering from the effects of breast cancer. Because of this, women are living longer and taking more preventative measures towards breast cancer. Experiencing breast cancer may result in any of the following: a breast biopsy, lymph node biopsy or removal, lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction or radiation therapy. Any of these can affect how well you can move your shoulder and arm, making it difficult to perform daily living activities like bathing, dressing or even combing your hair. Physical Therapists play an important role in the treatment of women who have experienced any surgery related to breast cancer. After surgery, a physical therapist with a physician’s order may perform an evaluation, and design an exercise program that is just right for the patient. The therapist will educate on proper deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and may suggest adaptive equipments needed to aid with activities of daily living. The therapist will also perform passive range of motion, slow gentle stretches, and massage if needed. As time progresses, patients will be trained in isometric exercises and active range of motion exercises as illustrated with or without the use of equipment (i.e. dowel or towel). No matter what type of breast surgery, it is important to exercise. However, it is critical to talk to a doctor prior to starting any exercise program so that they can decide what is best for you. The doctor may decide that it is necessary to refer you to a physical therapist for an evaluation and exercise program. Many hospitals have physical therapy departments with state-of-the-art equipment, skilled therapists and personalized care. Once therapy is completed, individuals may enroll in HGB’s Encore class. Encore is a group exercise class especially designed for those who have recently had physical or occupational therapy, instructed by HGB physical therapy staff. Encore can improve overall health, increase mobility and strength and work toward exercise independence. Reminder: Do not start any of these exercises without first talking directly to your doctor. [nggallery id=72]
Kim Dickinson is the director of rehabilitation services at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital.