How physiotherapy can help with breast cancer - Western Women's and Mens Health
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How physiotherapy can help with breast cancer

How physiotherapy can help with breast cancer

The treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, chemo, radiation, hormonal therapy and/or reconstruction. If your treatment plan involves some or all of these, you may suffer some side-effects, including:

  • Axillary Web Syndrome: Also known as “cording”, AWS can occur after breast or axillary (basically armpit) surgery, especially if lymph nodes are removed. It is thought to be caused by inflammation, thickening and eventual hardening of blood and lymph vessels or scar tissue tightness. Symptoms may include the appearance of a rope-like structure below the skin which may extend beyond your scar, which can create a new sensation of pain or tightness, restricting arm movement, especially to the front or side of the body. This can be problematic as it may delay your radiation treatment until you are able to reach the necessary treatment position.
    Physiotherapy is extremely effective in resolving the issue of cording, improving your range of movement and allowing you to resume your daily activities earlier. Contact the helpful physiotherapists at Western Women’s and Men’s Health to arrange an appointment.
  • Post-surgical or Radiotherapy Scar Tissue Tightness: Scars form as a natural part of the body healing, but they can be ugly, irritating, and feel tight, hard and lumpy. Massaging firmly with a good oil (and there are many on the market) for 5 minutes morning and night can help disperse scar tissue. There are also various silicone gels and gel sheets that can be beneficial, often found in pharmacies.
  • Reduced range of movement: The trauma of surgery and radiation therapy to breast, stomach, back and shoulder regions can lead to soft tissue tightness and subsequent decreased range of movement, affecting everyday activities such as washing your hair. Talk to your qualified physiotherapist for some advice on how to improve this situation.
  • Radiotherapy Tissue Tightness: After radiotherapy, the muscles and joints in the treated area may feel stiff and sore. This may not be noticed until some time after treatment, occurring gradually up to 1-2 years post-therapy! Regular exercise or stretching can help prevent this tissue tightness from happening. Ask your physio for advice.
  • Cancer Related Fatigue: This is an extremely debilitating consequence of cancer treatment, affecting 70-100% of cancer patients. It can persist for months or years, interfering with daily activities, with social and economic consequences. The common misconception is to rest following treatment, but research has shown that being active can significantly improve fatigue levels. Start slowly and gradually build up. Again, see your physio for advice.

Coping with the physical and psychological trauma of breast cancer can be very demanding. Keeping a good attitude and seeking support will go a long way to your recovery. Talk to the caring physiotherapists at Western Women’s and Men’s Health for a program to help you get back into life. Remember, cancer is a word, not a sentence!


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