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Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! We'll discuss all the things breast cancer and how physiotherapy can help in you rehabilitation.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breast, it can start in one or both the breasts. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not malignant (cancerous).

Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells, which results in formation of lumps within the breast, which can be treated.

Breast Cancer Signs And Symptoms

  • Nipple tenderness or a lump near the breast or underarm area

  • A change in skin texture

  • A lump in the breast

  • Change in size and shape of the breast

  • A depression anywhere in the breast

  • Any swelling or shrinkage of the breast

  • Any discharge from the breast

 

Common Myths About Breast Cancer

  • “Finding a lump in your breast doesn’t mean you have breast cancer.”

    • A lump in your breast does not necessarily indicate the presence of breast cancer. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts

  • “A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.”
    • Popular to contrary belief, mammograms actually help in diagnosis of cancer, instead of spreading it

  • “Men do not get breast cancer.”

    • ​Although breast cancer is most often found in women, men can get it too

  • “If you have a family history of breast cancer, you can develop breast cancer.”

    • There is a predisposition of breast cancer due to family history but it does not mean that other family members can have it because of history

  • “Breast cancer is contagious.”

    • Breast cancer doesn't spread person to person by any means

  • “If there is any gene mutation detected in your DNA, you can develop breast cancer.”

    • If there is any gene mutation in you, it doesn't mean that you will definitely get breast cancer

 

Ways To Prevent Breast Cancer

1. Self-examine your breast regularly

2. Women around 40 should get mammography done

3. Add more vegetables and fruits in your diet

5. For new mothers, it is advisable to breastfeed their child

6. Avoid excess consumption of smoke and alcohol

 
Treatments For Breast Cancer

There are many different types of treatments for breast cancer such as surgery or removal of affected area, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This is then followed by rehabilitation with a multidisciplinary team of oncology surgeons, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, counselors, nutritionists and many more.

Cancer treatments can cause physical side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Therefore, it is important to get the help that is needed. 

 

Common Complications After A Mastectomy

There is always a risk of problems or complications after any operation. Most problems are minor but some can be serious. Treating them as soon as possible is important. Some of the common complications include:

  • Feeling tired and weak

  • Wound infection

  • Seroma (fluid collection around the wound site)

  • Hematoma (blood collection around the wound site)

  • Nerve pain

  • Shoulder stiffness

  • Lymphoedema (a swollen arm and hand)

  • Cording (scar tissue in the armpit)

 

Possible Problems After A Mastectomy

  • Limited shoulder range of motion (shoulder stiffness)

  • Arm weakness 

  • Lymphoedema (arm swelling)

  • Fatigue 

  • Chest pain

  • Nerve entrapment by adhesions

 

Physiotherapy Can Help Those In Rehabilitation After Lumpectomy Or Modified Radical Mastectomy

Physiotherapy is a great rehabilitation method for those who has underwent breast surgery. This also includes evaluation before surgery, followed by exercises that begin immediately after surgery.

 

Rehabilitation Techniques

No matter the type of surgery, it’s important to do exercises afterward to get the arm and shoulder moving again. Exercises help decrease side effects of your surgery and help you get back to your usual activities. Some of these techniques include:

  • Instructions for good posture and relaxation techniques

  • Lymphatic drainage; the most important technique to prevent lymphoedema (arm swelling) or cording

  • Pneumatic compression therapy

  • Shoulder glides to prevent shoulder stiffness

  • Scar mobilization or scar release to decrease the chest tightness

  • Counseling for emotional distress

  • Self-care of scar tissue and lymphoedema

  • Graded strengthening exercises for shoulder and scapular muscles to maintain the correct posture and to follow daily activities like before the surgery

  • Active shoulder range of motion exercises

  • Gentle stretching

 

Simple Exercises To Start With

We've listed some of the easiest exercises that you can do to help increase your shoulder range of motion and prevent post surgical complications.

1. Shoulder Flexion

 

 

Steps:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart, hold the wand in front of your body at shoulder level, parallel to the floor

  • Slowly raise the wand above the head keeping arms straight

  • Hold for 3 - 5 seconds and lower the wand slowly

  • Repeat 10 - 15 times

 

2. Shoulder Extension

 

Steps:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart, hold the wand behind the body with palms up

  • Slowly extend the wand upward and back until a stretch is felt on the anterior portion of the shoulder

  • Hold for 3 - 5 seconds

  • Repeat 10 - 15 times

 

3. Shoulder Rotations

 

Steps:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart, hold the wand in front of you, parallel to the floor

  • Slowly shift the wand away from your body in a sideways direction

  • Hold the position each side for 3 - 5 seconds

  • Repeat 10-15 times

 

4. Shoulder Internal Rotation

 

Steps:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart, hold the wand behind the body with palms up

  • Slowly move the wand upward, keeping it as close to the body as possible

  • Hold the position for 3 - 5 seconds

  • Repeat 10 -15 times

 

5. Pectoral Stretching

 

 Steps:

  • Standing with feet shoulder width apart, keep your hands behind the neck 

  • Ensure that elbows are facing forward and parallel to the ground

  • Stretch both elbows apart from each other

  • Maintain the stretch for 10 seconds

  • Repeat 10 times

 

Written by: Simran Kaur (Physiotherapist)

The IP university post graduate, Simran holds a master’s degree in sports physiotherapy. She has experience working in a challenging field and make utmost use of her abilities in treating different orthopedic and sports injuries conditions. She has expertise in treating neck, back, hip, knee, and ankle injuries. She also treated oncology cases like post-mastectomy pain syndrome and oropharyngeal cancer patients and help them in their rehabilitation.

Author by Simran Kaur, Oct 17, 2022,

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