Physical Therapy Can Aid Recovery from Breast Cancer

Despite recent advances in research, an estimated 230,480 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed last year among women. Beth Israel highlights how physical therapy can play an important role in minimizing the side effects after treatment.

“Though recovery varies greatly for each patient, and not every one of these patients with breast cancer will require rehabilitation services post-treatment, swelling and range-of-motion problems following treatment can prevent them from returning to normal daily activities. One of the most effective ways to treat the side effects of breast cancer treatment is to begin a provider-approved course of arm exercises. Occupational and physical therapists can teach patients basic exercises that will stretch and strengthen the muscles of the chest, back, shoulders and arms, preventing stiffness and reducing pain. Increased flexibility can improve a patient’s posture, which helps with pain management. And a supervised, gradual return to exercise can also reduce both nerve irritation and fatigue.”

Notes physical therapist Kathleen Shillue: “Patients can begin a physical therapy program after adequate healing of the incision. One of the benefits of rehabilitation and physical therapy is that exercise can help with fatigue, which is a very common complaint among patients with breast cancer.”

The American Cancer Society also has a good starting point for exercises you can do after surgery.