Breast Cancer Rehabilitation

Medical Reviewer: Ashley Perry, PT, DPT, MTC
Last Updated: July 28, 2022

How breast cancer rehabilitation helps

Rehabilitation services before, during or after breast cancer treatments has been shown to greatly improve overall recovery time after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy for all types of breast cancer.

Participating in a structured and skilled rehab program can reduce the likelihood and severity of functional decline that can occur during breast cancer treatment.

Our clinicians are trained to address many of these impairments including but not limited to, decreases in range of motion, shoulder or neck pain, axillary cording, lymphedema, peripheral neuropathy, fatigue or balance issues.

Breast cancer rehabilitation services we offer

  • Prehab services provide education, obtain baseline measurements, identity and address any pre-existing impairments that may hinder recovery time.
  • Post-op Care is designed to restore prior level of function or highest recovery. Brooks’ clinicians are trained to understand the unique surgical interventions and reconstruction procedures frequently seen in breast cancer treatments. This allows for tailored treatment plans to restore function faster and safer.
  • Lymphedema Therapy addresses a wide spectrum of lymphedema treatments. Lymphedema is swelling that can occur in the limb after surgery or radiation treatment. Our clinicians provide services to those who are at risk for lymphedema as well as those who have already been diagnoses and need direct intervention.
  • Conditioning / Strengthening is a phase of recovery that focuses on specific or generalized strengthening, overall conditioning and /or endurance. Cancer treatments can often leave you tired, weak or fatigued. Supervised exercise by a trained clinician has been shown to be the most effective treatment.

Lymphedema Management

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked.

The lymph system is a network of lymph vessels, tissues, and organs that carry lymph throughout the body. The lymph system controls the swelling in your body in many cases.

Lymphedema is a swelling of a body part, most often affecting the extremities. It may also occur in the face, trunk, abdomen or genital area. Lymphedema is the result of an accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the subcutaneous tissue, which can have significant pathological and clinical consequences for the patient if left untreated.

What causes lymphedema?

There are two types of lymphedema:

  • Primary lymphedema is caused by the abnormal development of the lymph system and symptoms may develop at birth or later.
  • Secondary lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymph system. Most of the time we see secondary lymphedema. The lymph system may be damaged by infection, injury, cancer, radiation to the affected area and scar tissue from radiation therapy or surgery.

Lymphedema signs and symptoms

  • Swelling of arm, leg, trunk or head/neck area
  • Full or heavy feeling in arm or leg
  • Tight feeling in skin
  • Thickening of skin, with or without skin changes such as blisters or warts
  • Tightness in clothing, shoes, watches
  • Loss of hair

Lymphedema management

Lymphedema treatments and therapy

There is no cure for lymphedema, but we are able to manage the swelling and to keep it from getting worse.

Treatment can consist of exercise, compression garments, massage therapy/manual lymphatic drainage massage, pneumatic pump, and surgery.

Surgical treatments for lymphedema

There are very few surgical options and none has been shown to be consistently beneficial.

How we help you recover

Brooks’ oncology therapists often work with patients actively going through cancer treatments. Maintaining or increasing activity levels during treatment has been shown to help individuals better tolerate treatment as well as minimize potential long lasting effects of those treatments.

Often people realize they are not back to their prior level of function once they complete cancer treatments or maybe they have a new back or shoulder pain from surgery or immobility during their treatments. Rehab clinicians trained in oncology can help to restore function, decrease pain and advance patients to their highest level of recovery.

Our clinicians understand the long road taken by many cancer survivors, their knowledge and understanding helps patients shorten their recovery time and return to the activities that they love.

What to expect

Each patient seen by one of our clinicians will receive and individualized treatment plan.

Upon your first visit, you will meet with a clinician from physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology or a combination of each for a one on one consultation. In that first meeting the clinician will get to know your story. Where are you on your cancer journey, what types of treatments have you had or plan to have? What are your goals, what is important to you? They will also take many objective measures to get a baseline understanding of your health.

The clinician will then take all this information into consideration and devise a treatment plan to help you achieve your goals. Frequency and duration of therapy treatments vary per individual and their needs.

You can arrive at your initial evaluation in comfortable clothing. If you have recently had surgery please be prepared that the clinician may ask to see your surgical site to assess for proper healing or swelling in the area. Clothing that allows access to the under arm such as a tank top under your clothing is optimal.

Connect with us

Depending on your insurance you may need a referral from your doctor for therapy services. Some insurance allows for direct access for 30 days prior to needing an order from your MD, check with your insurance company for confirmation. Orders can come from your primary care, surgeon or any one of you oncology doctors. Orders can be sent to:

Referral for Outpatient Rehabilitation
Central Intake Unit (CIU)
P: (904) 345-7277
F: (904) 345-7280
Email: [email protected]

Medical Reviewer

Ashley Perry, PT, DPT, MTC

Oncology Program Coordinator
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