October is Breast Cancer Month. Breast cancer continues to affect too many of our friends and family members and the women we are doing life with everyday. The whole reason we take this month is to prevent and eradicate breast cancer. It is so we can tell all the women we know and love that we need to be proactive in preventive measures and to be there for each other if we do get breast cancer.
I just had a lovely woman who would tell you that you being too busy for a breast exam should not be an excuse. She learned to not put off her mammogram because it can give the vital information we need quickly and accurately. In her case, they caught a very small tumor that was very aggressive during a routine mammogram and as a result she will have great outcomes.
As Physical Therapists we play a role in caring for breast cancer patients. We usually see our patients about 12-14 days after surgery or once their drains are removed. We focus on getting their arms moving again and on restoring their overall strength with everyday activities. We educate our patients on skin care and scar mobility so edema doesn’t build-up in that area. Then we screen all patients for possible lymphedema issues from a long-term perspective so that they can be active in understanding symptoms such as pressure and “feelings of fullness” around the breast, chest or arm.
The two main reasons that you would get Lymphedema following breast cancer is:
If you had Lymph nodes removed, whether sentinel node, three nodes or all nodes removed, and radiation.
Often our patients have never heard of lymphedema or the possibility of lymphedema. Prevention now is the key. The more you know about the likelihood of it the more you can prevent it. If they do have lymphedema issues then there are easy steps that can be followed to ensure the proper care of this problem.
Lymphedema can be taken care of with Four Simple Steps:
1) Massage every day – Learn how to re-direct the lymph fluid to a new area around the area where the nodes were removed. Keep the scar lines mobile so that no fluid gets backed up behind the scar region.
2) Exercise on a daily basis – Learn special exercises that pump the lymph system and keep it moving where it should go.
3) Good Skin care – Keeping the skin in the area of where the lymphedema is located soft and pliable.
4) Use of compression sleeves – Use of garments especially during high risk activities such as flying, going over the pass and repetitive workloads.
Sheree DiBiase, PT, is a breast cancer specialist and she is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy
. She and her staff treat breast cancer patients everyday. Please call or come in if you have questions or you are just not sure what to do, we can help. On Oct. 17 we will have a free educational class for anyone with Breast Cancer at 6 p.m. in our Coeur d’Alene office. Please call (208) 667-1988 to attend.