Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer is life-altering. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 25% of all cancer diagnoses in 2022 were breast cancer.
The journey is difficult…
Possible Side Effects from Lumpectomy, Mastectomy, Chemotherapy, and/or Radiation
Dealing with the side effects of a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and/or radiation can be challenging. Pain, lack of energy, lymphedema, cording in the armpit, and chemo-brain affect our ability to return to usual activities. Learn more about cording from the National Library of Medicine.
Holding our arms to our bodies to protect our vulnerable shoulders and chest may lead to long-lasting problems. This “broken wing” scenario may cause muscle shortening/tightening, making it difficult to regain full motion in our arm/shoulder, trunk, and neck. Putting on clothes, side sleeping, doing housework, and sporting activities can all be challenging.
Our quality of life after the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer strongly relate to physical movement. The more we can move, the more we do move. Dr. Kathleen Nazar Corbett, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, uses a variety of treatments to help deal with issues that arise from breast cancer treatment. After a full assessment, including arm/shoulder, neck, trunk, and range of motion, treatment may begin.
Movement is an essential part of healing. We need to get our hearts pumping and blood flowing. Movement can also make our scars more flexible, and our bodies, including our shoulders, experience more normal ranges of motion. Not to mention the positive effects on our mental health. Movement is life. It allows us to focus on something different, even if it’s only for a little while.
Helpful Therapies after Breast Cancer Treatment
Using the non-invasive Graston Technique for soft tissue®, Dr. Kathleen detects potential limitations of the fascia and surrounding muscles.
Graston Technique® works by warming up and loosening adhesions that develop under the surface.
We start in the hand/wrist and work towards the shoulder. If there is tension in these areas, pulling may be noticed in the armpit, adding to the tightness created by surgery. Shoulder and shoulder blade movement is then addressed.
Treatments are tailored to patient tolerance and body comfort. The goal is to improve blood flow and encourage lymph movement and muscle lengthening. Learn more about Graston Technique®
Fascial Manipulation Therapy
Fascial Manipulation Therapy is another approach to dealing with the after-effects of breast cancer treatment. Within the body, there are layers of skin, skin ligaments for movement, fat, superficial fascia, deep fascia, hyaluronic acid and muscle.
Trauma and surgery can have an impact on fascial layers. The hyaluronic acid layer acts as a lubricant to help the layers slide. Sometimes layers become thick and “sticky”, causing the layers of fascia to stick together like two pieces of tape.
Non-invasive Fascial Manipulation Therapy has a direct effect on the hyaluronic acid and layers of fascia. With specific testing, trained professionals (like Dr. Kathleen Nazar Corbett) are able to detect areas that may be the source of your pain and/or limitation. Hands-on treatment warms up the layer of hyaluronic acid to make it thinner and less sticky helping the layers glide freely once again. Learn more about Fascial Manipulation Therapy (Myofascial Release Therapy) from the Cleveland Clinic.
Scar Mobilization Techniques
Scars are a normal part of healing. During the recuperative process, collagen fibers can become disorganized and knot together leading to stiffness and tension. As the scar matures, it can pull and drag on the surrounding tissue, resulting in puckered skin, limited motion, and pain. Scar Therapy works around a scar to soften the fibres and release tension.
The goal is to get the injured tissue moving as freely as the skin and tissue around it. Mobilizing a scar can reduce swelling, tightness and numbness. Scar Mobilization Techniques are non-invasive, painless and permanent. Learn more about Scar Therapy and at home massage techniques from My Health Alberta.
All of these treatments help address issues arising from surgery, such as restricted range of motion (ROM), and axillary web syndrome (cording) or from the side effects of radiation, chemotherapy and psycho-social challenges. These therapies have also proven to be especially effective in helping with the results of lymphedema, commonly associated with post-mastectomy procedures.
Connect with Dr. Kathleen if you are experiencing pain and limitations from breast cancer surgery. Life shouldn’t hurt.