October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, you see everything from sports teams, pizza boxes, and even police cruisers decked out in pink to help raise awareness.
One in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in her lifetime, and men are not immune. In fact, breast cancer is the second most-diagnosed cancer in women – second only to skin cancer.
If you’ve recently received a breast cancer diagnosis, you no doubt have many thoughts, concerns, and questions running through your head.
No one wants to endure a mastectomy, but with education, a solid support system, and adequate post-mastectomy physical therapy, you can conquer this hurdle. Here’s everything you need to know about mastectomy recovery and how physical therapy after a mastectomy can make all the difference in the world.
What Is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy involves removing breast tissue to either prevent or stop the spread of cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, a doctor might remove lymph nodes and muscles beneath the breast tissue for testing.
In fact, there are five different types of mastectomy procedures. After your initial mastectomy recovery, you may choose to undergo reconstruction, and it’s common for insurance to cover that procedure as well.
What Does Mastectomy Recovery Entail?
Cancer treatment in general is physically and mentally challenging in a way people who haven’t experienced it can’t understand. Mastectomy recovery is multifaceted and each woman copes in her own way.
Physical recovery from a double mastectomy usually takes between four and six weeks. If you’ve had a radical mastectomy with additional muscle or lymph nodes removed, this can add some length to your recovery time.
Furthermore, you’ll need to consider any additional time for reconstruction. Make sure to discuss your options with your Fort Lauderdale, FL doctor and reach out to survivor support networks for advice about deciding whether or not to undergo a reconstruction.
Perhaps even more challenging is the emotional aspect of mastectomy recovery. Develop a good support system and allow yourself to experience emotions as they come and go.
How Long Can I Wait to Exercise After a Mastectomy?
Your exercise intensity and variety will depend on the type of mastectomy you’ve had and whether or not you also underwent reconstruction.
Exercise after a mastectomy can benefit your recovery so make sure to stick with the regimen you discuss with your Fort Lauderdale, FL doctor or physical therapist.
- Restoring movement in arms or shoulders
- Maintaining muscle, bone, and tissue flexibility
- Restoring your full range of motion and daily activities
- Avoiding lymphedema (fluid build-up)
- Encouraging emotional and mental resilience
In many cases, you should start certain exercises after your mastectomy – about three to seven days post-surgery. In other cases, you may need to wait for the doctor to remove sutures and other drainage items.
Exercise after mastectomy is very gentle and may include:
- Laying on your back and raising your arm above heart level
- Raising your arm above heart level and making a fist and releasing 20-30 times
- Deep breathing exercises to encourage healthy chest muscles
While traditional exercise like weight lifting and running are great for improving your emotional and physical health, you’ll probably need to wait at least six weeks for your body to heal. Always talk to your doctor first.
Can Physical Therapy After a Mastectomy Help Me Recover?
Studies show that exercise and physical therapy after a mastectomy are incredibly important for recovery.
It’s actually very common for women to develop musculoskeletal issues following a mastectomy and reconstruction because it causes so much disruption to your body’s natural muscle tissue. However, post-mastectomy physical therapy can play a major role in reducing this risk and getting you back to “normal” life as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, not enough patients go through with physical therapy after their cancer treatment and mastectomy recovery.
In other cases, their post-mastectomy physical therapy isn’t customized. Lack of proper exercise after a mastectomy can lead to muscle loss and poor movement which can add additional strain to your daily life.
According to a recent study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a personalized physical therapy plan can drastically help you regain your range of motion after the removal of breast tissue and lymph nodes.
In their study, women who received comprehensive physical therapy after a mastectomy enjoyed a 32% overall improvement rate post-surgery as opposed to 6% of women who only received education and brochures.
This research shows that mastectomy recovery should involve a multifaceted approach with continuous communication between your physical therapist and doctor to reap the full range of benefits every woman in Fort Lauderdale, FL deserves.
What Can I Expect from Post-Mastectomy Physical Therapy?
Complete recovery is never immediate. It takes dedication and patience. But by channeling your inner strength and coordinating with your physical therapist, you can get ahead in your mastectomy recovery process.
Comprehensive post-mastectomy physical therapy will typically involve some of the following modalities depending on your type of surgery and other cancer treatments you’ve had.
- Postural Training: The use of specific devices and movements to improve posture problems caused by your surgery.
- Manual Therapy: Literal hands-on treatment to help the fascia, muscles, bones, joints, and tissues heal.
- Lymphedema Treatment: The use of wraps, bandages, and other methods to support proper drainage and reduce lymphedema.
- Exercise after Mastectomy: Personalized suggestions you can do at home to promote range of motion and recovery.
Ideally, your doctor and physical therapist should work together with you to develop a thorough and dynamic treatment plan and help you recover as efficiently as possible.
Compassionate and Comprehensive Post-Mastectomy Physical Therapy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
At Clear Choice Physical Therapy, we understand that mastectomy recovery is a deeply personal process and unique to every individual. You aren’t just another patient to us.
Our team will work closely with your doctor to develop a customized therapy program that puts you first. You might have a long road ahead of you, but Clear Choice in Fort Lauderdale, FL will help get you to your destination.
Contact Clear Choice Physical Therapy today to start your journey or ask any questions about physical therapy after a mastectomy.