WNY Breast Health prides itself on offering a number of recuperative services for those patients who have undergone treatment for breast disease in addition to the diagnostic and screening services already mentioned. One such service is the physical therapy that is offered in the office. The American Cancer Society recommends that all patients who have undergone surgery, including those for breast cancer, should exercise to accelerate their recovery time. Physical therapy is a great way for a trained therapist to assist patients who may be unfamiliar with useful exercises to help them recover.
There are a number of side effects that patients naturally feel following surgery, which include numbness, fatigue, loss of balance, and a loss of range of motion or flexibility. Physical therapy can help fix all of these problems through regular sessions that are tailored to exercise the body parts affected through surgery. After breast cancer surgery, such as mastectomy, patients may feel any or all of these symptoms and may also begin to experience the effects of lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition that occurs after the removal of the lymph nodes adjacent to the breast, in which the lymph fluid is unable to drain from the arm the properly and accumulates instead, causing swelling, tightness, and sometimes pain in the affected limb. Lymphedema may be managed through the combination of physical therapy and type of massage known as manual lymphatic drainage. This technique replicates the smooth muscle contractions necessary for circulating lymph throughout the body, and promotes the drainage of the accumulated lymph from the arm so that physical therapy may begin. Following this drainage, a physical therapist can assist the patient in specific exercises designed to help increase range of motion and prevent lymph from building up in the arm again.
On a personal level, patients suffering from or treating arm lymphedema should take special care to prevent skin damage to the affected arm. If bacteria are able to enter the lymph system due to a cut or blister, they may reach the lymph system and can use the nutrients found within the lymph fluid to cause infection. Lymph fluid volume increases within the body in response to infections, and as such lymphedema may recur in patients due to the immune response. One such way to prevent bacterial problems and lymphedema is to wear hand protection during physical chores, such as doing the dishes or gardening.