How Physical Therapy Can Help Breast Cancer Patients

Breast Cancer patients

One in every eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetime Another 61,000 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer, along with 2,600 men. Physical therapy can help, ease the symptoms of treatment and aid in rehabilitation following reconstructive surgery.

The chance of developing breast cancer has a genetic component and those with a mother, daughter or sister who was diagnosed are at greater risk. Cancer doesn’t just affect breast tissue. Patients may experience lung and breathing problems, bone loss and even cognitive impairment.

Painful joints and muscles are common, but even knowing what to expect during treatment can come as a shock when the effects begin to appear on an individual’s own body. It’s disheartening for breast cancer patients to discover that they can’t perform ordinary household tasks due to fatigue or loss of muscle strength.

For advanced breast cancers that have spread into surrounding lymph nodes under the arms, patients may choose a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. The method restores symmetry to the body and will require measures to maintain mobility and flexibility.

Treatment may also be required to address or treat lymphedema, a condition in which fluid doesn’t drain correctly and collects in tissues. Well-known celebrity and two-time cancer survivor, Kathy Bates, has spoken publically about her battles with lymphedema and the benefits of physical therapy for the condition.

8 Benefits of Physical Therapy

Cancer treatments vary widely, depending upon the stage of cancer that has developed. Cancer is a debilitating disease that affects the body and an individual’s self-image. Individuals may experience weakness, nausea and vomiting, along with hair loss or thinning and mouth sores.

Physical therapy can help people feel better by:

  • Easing pain
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Promoting bone density
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Reducing stress and depression
  • Ridding the body of toxins
  • Decreasing swelling and inflammation
  • Treating lymphedema

People with breast cancer often lose their appetite which can lead to serious nutritional deficits and increases the risk of infections. Bleeding, diarrhea, anemia, and early menopause or infertility may also occur. Many individuals lose weight during breast cancer treatments, while others gain weight due to reduced activity levels.

Breast cancer has a strong emotional and psychological component that can be alleviated through physical therapy. Fear, poor sleep, worry and depression are common, along with loss of sexual function that further adds to an already stressful situation.