Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in South African women. Because of this, most people are affected by breast cancer, be it through a personal, or a loved one’s, diagnosis. Fortunately, due to the evolving management of breast cancer, survival rates have improved. Therefore, a larger focus needs to be put on improving the quality of life for women who have survived breast cancer.

Breast cancer requires holistic treatment with a multi-disciplinary team. Your physiotherapist is one of the members of this team. Physiotherapist’s have an important role in the recovery process of breast cancer survivors. Keep reading to find out how physiotherapy can help!

1. Strength retraining of the upper limb

Surgical management of breast cancer can result in decreased use and strength of the involved arm. A physiotherapist can provide you with effective and safe exercises to strengthen your upper limb.

2. Regain range of motion of the upper limb

Surgical management of breast cancer can result in decreased range of motion of the involved arm. This can be due to the scar, lymphedema, or stiffness in the muscles and joints. Physiotherapist’s can provide you with safe exercises, as well as use hands on techniques, such as massage, to improve the movement of your arm.

3. Decrease scar tightness

The surgical scar can become tight and cause pain and dysfunction of the arm. Physiotherapy techniques such as scar massage and taping can help decrease scar tightness and therefore improve the function of your arm.

4. Manage lymphedema

A common side effect of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment is lymphedema. Physiotherapists can help manage your lymphedema by using lymph drainage techniques such as massage, compression and exercise.

5. Manage musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain

It is common to experience pain in the neck, upper back, shoulder and arm when recovering from breast cancer. Physiotherapists can use different musculoskeletal and neurological techniques to help manage and decrease this pain.

6. Design an individualised exercise programme

Research has shown that exercise has a positive effect during recovery from breast cancer. Physiotherapist’s can use exercise principles to design an individualised exercise programme and to assist you to progress with this programme.

7. Return you to your highest functional level

By achieving all of these goals, your physiotherapist will help you to return to your highest functional level.

Include your physiotherapist in your breast cancer recovery to assist you with any of the above problems you may have!