Physical Therapy Improves Quality of Life During All Phases of the Breast Cancer Journey

Physical Therapy Improves Quality of Life During All Phases of the Breast Cancer Journey

By Janelle Trippany DPT, CLT-LANA, PRPC, Lymphedema and Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist III, Outpatient Therapy Services, Valley Medical Center

Breast cancer survivor rates are higher than ever
One in eight women and one in one thousand men will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Due to early detection and advances in breast cancer treatment, more people than ever are living through and beyond cancer. While returning to “normal” life and activities is extremely important and can be hard, physical therapy can help reduce side effects and improve quality of life before and after breast cancer treatment is completed.

Breast cancer treatment including surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, reconstruction), radiation and/or chemotherapy, can lead to side effects that affect the way your body functions both short- and long-term.

Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

  1. Pain
  2. Limited range of motion
  3. Lymphedema (swelling)
  4. Axillary web syndrome (cording)
  5. Scar tissue
  6. Weakness and fatigue
  7. Bowel and bladder changes
  8. Dyspareunia (pain with intercourse)

How Can Physical Therapy Help Patients with Breast Cancer?

Even before surgery, evidence shows that starting with a physical therapy assessment can improve treatment outcomes.

Physical therapy assessment before surgery

The goals of an assessment before surgery are:

  1. Measure baseline range of motion, strength and circumference of both arms
  2. Identify issues that you are living with now that could make recovery more difficult, such as lack of strength and range of motion
  3. Talk about lymphedema and how to lower the risk
  4. Plan an exercise program for before and after surgery

Physical therapy after surgery
The goal of physical therapy after surgery and during cancer treatment is to reduce treatment side effects so your body gets back to functioning well more quickly. Physical therapy can include manual therapy (tissue massage), lymphedema treatment and therapeutic exercise.

Valley’s Outpatient Therapy Services team is specially trained to care for patients before, during and after their breast cancer treatment to improve quality of life throughout the cancer journey and survivorship. For more information about Valley’s Outpatient Therapy Services, visit or call 425.690.3650.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Physical Therapy Month

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office