Healing Your Body

What happens to the beauty of a song if it is played to slow? It drags and loses its appeal. What happens if a musician rushes through a song and it’s played to quickly? Again, it loses its appeal, but in a different way.

Healing is a lot like this-it doesn’t really work well if it’s going too slowly and not supported in the right ways. On the other hand, it doesn’t work to push too hard, either. In fact, rushing through may cause setbacks.

Although your treatment has ended, you are still coping with how your lumpectomy/mastectomy and treatment affected your body. It can take a lot long than you think to get over the effects each of these can cause. Each person’s schedule is different. You may wonder how your body should feel during this time and what may be a sign that cancer is coming back.

I think rehabilitation should be offered to all of us (breast cancer patients) just like other people who have received serious injuries. People who are ill or injured typically receive rehab that is individualized to fit their needs and is offered by trained healthcare professionals in rehabilitation medicine. The lack of (or poorly implemented) rehabilitation services for cancer survivors should be a focus of healthcare providers.

Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment
1. Scar tissue adhesions
2. Pain: shoulder, chest, back, neck or arm
3. Restricted ROM or stiffness of the shoulder, neck, spine
4. Lymphedema
5. Weakness and fatigue
6. Neuropathy
7. Axillary Web Syndrome (cording)
8. Bowel and Bladder changes
9. Dyspareunia (pain with intercourse)
10.Postmastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS)

If you had just had a stroke, you wouldn’t accept any medical advice that told you to just go and figure it out. Would you think it reasonable to be sent to an exercise class without any other rehabilitation? Probably not! Ask your Oncologist where you can go to receive cancer rehabilitation services that your health insurance will cover. Keep in mind that any response to this should include core rehabilitation healthcare professionals such as physical/occupational/speech therapists. If the response involves a lot of healthcare providers but leaves out the core rehabilitation professionals, then chances are you are not receiving optimal care when it comes to healing from cancer or its treatments. Regardless of wether your cancer is cured, in remission or you are living with chronic condition, you deserve core rehabilitation.

Studies have shown that nearly every woman who goes through breast cancer treatment develops physical impairments that she didn’t have prior. More than 90% of women needed cancer rehabilitation but fewer than 30% receive this care.

Women faced with breast cancer may develop musculoskeletal impairments following mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Close communication between physician and physical therapist is emphasized. Physical therapists facilitate patient education, skillfully evaluate and treat musculoskeletal dysfunctions, and provide individualized patient exercise prescriptions. Physical therapists also serve as valuable members of a multidisciplinary breast cancer team.

Bottom line: make sure rehab is not left out of your care plan.

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