Breast Cancer and Post-Mastectomy Rehab

Breast Cancer, mastectomy

According to Texas Health and Human Services, in 2022, an estimated 19,921 women in Texas will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In some breast cancer cases, a mastectomy may be necessary.

Post-mastectomy physical therapy can aid in the overall recovery process by focusing on regaining strength and increasing the range of motion in your shoulder and arm. Early intervention by a physical therapist can help women regain full function following mastectomy surgery, regardless of whether or not a woman has had reconstruction.

Rehabilitation is always tailored to each patient’s specific needs. Not every patient experiences the same recovery, and as such our physical therapists are prepared to help patients experiencing a multitude of symptoms – some have been highlighted below.

Post-Mastectomy Rehab Programs

Size, location, and the type of mastectomy are important considerations when choosing a type of treatment. Exercises to maintain shoulder range of motion and arm mobility may be prescribed as early as 24 hours after surgery.  These exercises are important in restoring strength and promoting good circulation. As rehabilitation progresses these exercises may be modified to meet new goals.

Numbness and/or nerve sensitivity at the surgical site can develop post-mastectomy manual therapy can help restore sensation and relieve nerve pain. In severe cases, a chronic condition known as post-mastectomy pain syndrome may develop.  This is caused by scar tissue impinging on nerves. Physical therapy can be very effective at releasing scar tissue and reducing this nerve-related pain.

Scar tissue formation may cause tightness around the surgical site leading to very dense tissue under the incision, which is painful and can restrict range of motion. The restricted range of motion puts a woman at risk for a painful condition known as frozen shoulder. Early treatment by a physical therapist can help reduce the pain and help regain functional range of motion and strength.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

  • Improved shoulder range of motion
  • Improved shoulder strength
  • Improved functional mobility
  • Improved posture
  • Decreased pain at the surgical site
  • Decreased edema on the affected side
  • Improved sensation at the surgical site

If a mastectomy will be part of your breast cancer journey, ask your doctor if post-mastectomy physical therapy may be beneficial for you. Please contact us with any question or concerns you may have.