A mastectomy is a surgery that involves removing breast tissue in one or both breasts to prevent or stop the spread of cancer. Depending on your cancer stage, your doctor might remove some lymph nodes and possibly some muscles beneath the breast tissue for testing. Then, your doctor will place expanders or perform a one-step procedure in which they will place the implant simultaneously. All of these changes to your chest’s muscular structure are the reason it is a good idea to seek out mastectomy therapy.
Because women going through breast cancer treatment have unique healthcare needs, we provide specific physical therapy treatment to you, no matter where you are in the journey. We can provide specialized treatment for you after surgery, during chemotherapy and radiation, during reconstruction, and beyond.
What can I expect to feel?
Recovery varies from person to person and your doctor will tell you more about what to expect. Typical recovery is about 4 – 12 weeks. Exercises to regain your shoulder range of motion and arm mobility may be prescribed as early as 24 hours after your surgery. These exercises are important in restoring strength, promoting good circulation, and increasing your mobility.
The main thing that a physical therapy post-mastectomy program will do is help in the overall recovery process by focusing on helping you get your strength back and increase the range of motion of your shoulder and arm. We will teach you how to get back to all your normal activities pain-free with a full range of motion. Your program is always tailored to each of your specific needs.
After your mastectomy surgery, you will probably experience tightness in your shoulder, chest, and around the surgical site. This is caused by scar tissue formation. Scar tissue can become very dense tissue under the incision, which can be painful and can restrict your range of motion. This can put you at risk for a painful condition known as frozen shoulder. We will do everything to prevent this condition for you.
Numbness and/or nerve sensitivity around your surgical site can develop. We will perform manual therapy to help restore your sensation and relieve your nerve pain.
Occasionally, your doctor will need to perform an Axillary node dissection. This can lead to a condition known as cording or axillary web syndrome. Cording presents as a moderate to painful tightening from your armpit down your affected arm. It can look like you have a string of pearls under your skin down your arm. Cording will restrict your range of motion and arm function. Manual therapy, therapeutic stretching, and exercise will help to resolve this condition quickly.
Typical treatments from your physical therapist may include: