Thinking Pink and Thriving After Cancer
Posted on 10/31/2017 by Valerie L. Bobb, P.T., DPT, WCS, ATC
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to honor to those who have been affected by the disease. Approximately one in eight (12 percent) women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, so chances are you have been touched by somebody who has had breast cancer. The good news is breast cancer death rates continue to decrease each year. This leaves women (or men!) free to live a full life once they have recovered from treatment.
Any type of surgery can leave a patient with restriction in their neck, shoulder or arms, fatigue from chemotherapy or radiation and at risk for bone loss. However, physical therapists trained in treating cancer can design a program to regain motion, return to a healthy exercise program and return to all those things you love. That is why you fought so hard to overcome cancer!
Exercise is shown to reduce nausea, pain and stress and maintain a good weight. With your doctor’s permission and a physical therapists help, you can begin a program that focuses on moderate cardiovascular training, light weight training, flexibility and stress reduction.
Specific shoulder range of motion and strength exercises can help recovery from breast surgery, improve function, quality of life and body image and confidence. Resistance training is safe after surgery (once your restrictions have been lifted) and focuses on the muscles affected by the surgical procedure and what muscles you need to get back to your activities. Aerobic exercise is recommended three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes and can consist of walking, swimming or your favorite low impact exercise.
Both aerobic and strength training is vital to counteract bone loss related to chemotherapy. It is especially important if you are post-menopausal when you are diagnosed. Physical therapists can also teach you better ways to move and lift that will reduce chance of injury and excessive pressure on your spine. Fatigue is also another side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. Besides exercise, things such as deep breathing, stress reduction techniques and proper nutrition also help with recovery.
Many risk factors for breast cancers are beyond our control, such as age, family history and other medical conditions. However, you can control others, such as:
Weight: Being overweight, especially in postmenopausal women, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Estrogen is stored in fat and, after menopause, is our body’s main source of estrogen. The more fat tissue you have, the higher your estrogen levels.
Diet: Diet is suspected as a risk factor; however, research is not clear on exactly what foods increase our risk. It is recommended to limit foods high in animal fat and read labels to make sure the source has limited added hormones and soy. A low-fat diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is generally recommended.
Exercise: There is growing evidence that shows exercise can reduce breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise five or more days a week.
Alcohol and Smoking: Studies show that breast cancer risks increase with regular amounts of alcohol consumption. Smoking in general increases alcohol levels. Please contact your local hospital for a cessation program.
Please contact your local women’s and men’s health physical therapist for guidance on an exercise program for breast cancer recovery and return to your life!
Valerie BobbBy: Valerie L. Bobb, P.T., DPT, WCS, ATC, women’s and men’s heath physical therapist for Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation Outpatient Services in Dallas, TX. Baylor, NovaCare Rehabilitation and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.