Breast Cancer Rehabilitation: How Soon Do I Start?

Five times. How can that be? Just today I heard it 5 times and I wonder how many days before that I have I heard the same thing. “I Didn’t Know.” For me it would be good to never hear that again from any of my patients.

According to Dr. Sara Cuccurullo, in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Board Review in 2004 she stated that, “Rehabilitation of the patient with cancer should begin when disability is anticipated, rather than after it has occurred.”

I had always done orthopedic and sports medicine care, but 17 years ago an MD I respected greatly asked me to take a look at a patient of his and determine a plan of care for her. She was a breast cancer patient and she had had lymph nodes removed with radiation. Her arm was terribly swollen and she was in a lot of pain. Her arm was so heavy she could barely lift it.

I was taken back. I had never seen anything like this before. And from that moment on I decided that no one should ever have to suffer like that. I didn’t want to hear “Well, I just didn’t know.” So I made it part of my mission to care for breast cancer patients, and all oncology patients in my office along with my sports and orthopedic patients.

Quickly I realized that if I could see a patient after surgery and once their drains were removed, I could decrease the chance of physical disabilities early on just as Dr. Cuccurullo had reported. Prevention I realized was the key to positive outcomes with people who had cancer. So the quest began to never hear those words again.

Step Forward for Oncology Care is the 4 step program that came out of that process. It is for anyone who has had any type of surgery for oncology care. So as soon as your drains are removed, you need to schedule a physical therapy evaluation, by a therapist who is educated in oncology care, to create a baseline for your health plan. Ask your MD for a referral. Come and learn the four steps so you know how to be proactive in your health and healing process so recovery is complete. It consists of exercises, special massage, skin care and compression garments (move over Spanxs).

Recovery from Cancer is not complete without physical therapy rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is not only for problems that are already present, but to help prevent problems from ever occurring.


Sheree DiBiase, PT, has been a physical therapist for 32 years and she is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy in Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and Spokane Valley. She currently is certified through Stanford University in the LeDuc Method of Lymphedema care for oncology patients. All of her staff is trained in oncology care and is ready to make a plan for you and your oncology needs. Don’t wait, and never say, I didn’t know.