My tip for the LiveLaughLearn video is to involve a physiotherapist who specializes in breast cancer treatment in your care before, during and after surgery treatments.
I have the BRCA2 gene mutation which greatly increased my breast cancer risk. I was regularly tested and at 31 was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of my gene mutation it was recommended that I have a bilateral mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction. Surgeries to the chest often leave your skin and muscles tight, limiting your mobility. I’m very active and it was very important to me to regain my range of motion. A trained physiotherapist can provide amazing benefits in terms of mobility as well help speed your recovery. The exercises they can recommend also have an aesthetic benefit as they can help your implants look more natural.
Make sure your physiotherapist is trained and experienced with breast cancer specific treatments. It is very helpful to do exercises between appointments to increase the benefits of the therapy.
Here are some of the products and exercises I found especially helpful:
1. Myofacial Release – The main physical therapy I did was myofascial release. Myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle immobility and pain that aims to relax contracted muscles, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulate the stretch reflex in muscle. Because you need someone to do this with you, I recommend bring a partner, family member or friend to your appointments. The physiotherpist can then teach the proper techniques for you to do the exercises at home
2. Leukotape – To increase the benefits of the myofascial release I use Luekotape to keep the muscle stretched. It is a strong stretchable tape that works with the body’s elasticity. It is also skin friendly. It is available with our without latex
3. TheraBand – In conjunction with the myofascial release, you can use a TheraBand resistance band to help improve mobility and motion range. The resistance bands are also available latex free if that works better for you.
4. Lymphedema Compression Sleeve – Because of the removal of some of my lymph nodes, when I exercise, my right arm is prone to swelling due to lymphedema, which is localised fluid retention due to blockage in the lymphatic system. I love to exercise so I always use a compression sleeve during activity which helps prevent the swelling. Compression sleeves are available running shops, sporting goods stores, among other places If you experience lymphedema after surgery see a medical professional for the best ways to control the swelling in the affected body part.
Physiotherapy after a mastectomy may be covered by your provincial health plan as mine was, or by a private plan if you have one.