Why is it important to include physical therapy in your breast cancer recovery plan?

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments during breast cancer recovery, may leave patients with side effects. Physical therapy helps reduce bone and joint pain, fatigue, scar tissue formation, Axillary Web Syndrome, and Lymphedema. Some patients even find that PT decreases headaches from chemotherapy.

This blog looks at current breast cancer trends and what to expect when adding physical therapy to your breast cancer recovery plan.

2023 Cancer Statistics in the United States

Breast cancer has always been a poignant issue, but recent statistics have shown a concerning trend. While the overall national cancer rate shows a decline in older Americans, it's surprising that it has been increasing among younger individuals under 50. One might wonder why.

Potential reasons include obesity, alcohol use, smoking, poor sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to environmental factors such as pollution and carcinogens. (WebMD.com)

The 2023 breast cancer statistics are alarming, but there is a silver lining. Here are some current statistics:

  • In this year alone, an estimated 297,790 women in the US will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, with another 55,720 diagnosed with non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. (Cancer.Net)

  • The stark reality is that 1 in 8 women in the US will face this diagnosis in their lifetime. Yet, amidst these daunting figures, there's a silver lining: early detection and innovative treatments have increased survival rates. In the earliest stages, the 5-year relative survival rate is an impressive 99%. Over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors are testimony to this. (NationalBreastCancer.org)

Recovery rates are increasing, and physical therapy plays a role in a successful health journey.

The Role Physical Therapy Plays in Breast Cancer Recovery

Onacological Physical therapy plays a pivotal role in the recovery after breast cancer surgery. While many patients recover swiftly post-surgery, some may experience difficulty moving their arms, mild weakness, or swelling. Initiating physical therapy soon after surgery can alleviate these symptoms.

Therapy begins with a comprehensive evaluation focusing on pain complaints, range of motion, posture, and joint movement and assessing the healing process. Your specialized physical therapist may even provide strategies to prevent Lymphedema.

A customized breast cancer recovery plan may include all or any of these methods:

  • Gentle stretching

  • Massage for better healing

  • Joint movements and mobility exercises

  • Posture training

  • Strength building

  • Nerve gliding

  • Home exercises

Especially for breast cancer patients, physical therapy proves invaluable. Breast surgeries, whether lumpectomies or mastectomies, often bring side effects like pain and Lymphedema. Physical therapy exercises restore movement and alleviate pain, particularly in lifting the arm post-surgery. Moreover, it provides potential relief from swelling due to Lymphedema and helps manage pain.

Oncology Physical Therapy at The Therapy Network

Mandi Dowdy, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT of The Therapy Network aptly sums up the essence of oncology physical therapy:

Mandi Dowdy, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT

“Living through my mother’s experience with cancer inspired my passion for aiding patients with chemotherapy and radiation-induced fatigue syndrome. Oncology patients witness improved energy, strength, and function when engaged in a structured, positively enforced rehabilitation program. Diverse cancer types, constantly updated information, and innovative treatment plans continuously challenge me to discover novel approaches for excellence in patient care.”

At The Therapy Network, the therapy plan is tailored to the individual, encompassing strength and flexibility exercises, balance techniques, breathing exercises, manual therapy, cardiovascular fitness, nutritional guidance, and job re-training. The ultimate goal is to guide you through your cancer treatment and beyond, ensuring you have the strength and flexibility to enjoy life to the fullest with loved ones.

An outline of the Therapy Network’s oncology physical therapy offering is found on our website.

The Therapy Network in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk, Virginia

Welcome to The Therapy Network, Virginia Beach's beacon of specialty physical therapy, steadfastly serving the community since 1987.

Always putting patients first, our six clinics across Hampton Roads offer extended hours for the utmost convenience. You can schedule an appointment as early as 6 a.m. or as late as 6 p.m. by calling (757) 496-3700. Furthermore, Direct Access means you don't need a physician's referral to start your therapeutic journey and a breast cancer recovery plan with us.

Our therapists, passionate about their craft, specialize in various fields, ensuring you receive the highest quality care. Join us and experience the pinnacle of physical therapy. Same-day appointments are available at most locations.

woman with cancer in front of lake

Oncology Physical therapy helps cancer patients optimize physical function and their independence. Many feel that it improves the overall quality of life. This blog will explore the benefits of oncology physical therapy and staying in motion.

Any level of exercise during and after cancer treatment can reduce side effects, help your body recover, and fight depression. Research from the American Society of Clinical Oncology has shown that physical activity can also lower the risk of cancer returning.” –Duke Health

The Impact of Chemotherapy

Each year, more than 1.7 million Americans receive a new cancer diagnosis. At that rate, 34% of Americans will face cancer.

There is no doubt that chemotherapy and the range of cancer treatments have improved over the past decades. Diagnostics and therapies are saving lives. The negative of current cancer therapies includes the onset of a new list of physical and mental conditions. Here is a list of symptoms and conditions that cancer therapy patients face:

• Fatigue
• Pain
• Mobility Issues and Loss of Balance
• Weakness
• Inflammation and Swelling
• Neuropathy
• Cramps and Spasms
• Depression

The good news is that the science of oncology physical therapy is providing relief from chemotherapy treatment symptoms and staying in motion.

From The Therapy Network's Mandi Dowdy, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT

"In addition to specializing in spinal conditions, I specialize in Oncology and Physical Therapy. Living through my mother's experience with cancer inspired my passion for helping patients with chemotherapy and radiation-induced fatigue syndrome. Oncology patients improve their energy, strength, and function when involved in a structured, positively enforced rehabilitation program. Diverse cancer types, ever-changing information, and new treatment plans keep me engaged in finding new ways to provide excellence in care for my patients."

Five Benefits of Oncology Physical Therapy

Oncology physical therapy can benefit individuals undergoing cancer treatment or surviving cancer. Some of the potential benefits of oncological physical therapy include the following:

  1. Improving physical function and mobility: Oncology physical therapy can help individuals maintain or improve their physical function and mobility. The therapy can be essential for individuals undergoing cancer treatment who may be experiencing side effects such as fatigue or muscle weakness.

  2. Reducing pain and discomfort: Physical therapy can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with cancer or its treatment. Therapy can include managing chronic pain related to cancer or side effects such as neuropathy or lymphedema.

  3. Improving cardiovascular and respiratory function: Oncology physical therapy can help improve cardiovascular and respiratory function, which can be important for individuals undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy who may be at risk of developing complications such as pneumonia.

  4. Improving the quality of life: Oncological physical therapy can help improve an individual's overall quality of life by enabling them to maintain or improve their physical function and mobility and by reducing pain and discomfort associated with cancer or its treatment.

  5. Facilitating cancer rehabilitation: Oncological physical therapy can play an essential role in reducing cancer rehabilitation, which can help individuals return to their previous level of functioning and improve their overall quality of life following cancer treatment.

Stay in Motion: What to Expect

Oncology physical therapy is helpful before, during, and after treatment. At The Therapy Network, you will work with a therapy specialist at one of our six locations in coastal Virginia.

During your initial visit to TTN, your therapist will review your current and any previous cancer diagnoses, your treatment plan, and your cancer survivorship plan—all established by your cancer specialist physician or oncology team. The TTN therapist will also ask you about your current symptoms, such as, "When did your symptoms start?" and "What makes your symptoms better or worse?".

After reviewing your cancer treatment and recovery plan and discussing your current symptoms, the therapist will custom-create a physical therapy plan to fit your needs. Your therapist will become part of your cancer recovery team.

Your Oncology Physical Therapy Plan

Your therapist will set a physical therapy schedule within your plan. Your sessions at The Therapy Network may include the following goals:

  1. Strength and flexibility exercises

  2. Balance and fall prevention strategies

  3. Breathing and relaxation exercises

  4. Massage and manual therapy

  5. Cardiovascular Fitness

  6. Nutrition Guidance

  7. Job duty re-training
    Your therapy plan will include guidance through cancer treatment and beyond. If you and your cancer specialist team decide it is time to return to work, The Therapy Network will ensure that you are ready. Or we will aim to provide the strength, flexibility, and fitness to enjoy daily life with family and friends.

The Therapy Network in Coastal Virginia

If you live in the Hampton Roads, Virginia region, there is a Therapy Network location near your neighborhood. Appointments are available today. Our professional team will also assist with insurance paperwork and communication with your oncology specialist.

How can we help you today?