You’ve faced and beaten breast cancer. However, there are a few
things you need to consider in order to fully attain the quality of life
- Continue your monthly breast exam: You should
continue this practice on both sides of the chest, including the side
of the mastectomy or lumpectomy.
- Scar tissue restrictions: Tightness created
by scarring can result in posture problems and decreased range of motion.
If your scar is large and feels very deep, consult with your doctor
or physical therapist about how to reduce it.
- Posture: Pain and surgery often result in
“guarding” or bringing the head, shoulders, and upper back
into a forward and rounded position. This can result in back pain, headaches,
breathing problems, and decreased function. Proper posture is essential.
- Skin care: You are highly susceptible to
infection in the arm on the side of the mastectomy if you had your lymph
nodes removed. Always check your skin, immediately apply antiseptic
and bandages to any breaks in the skin, and use gloves when washing
dishes or gardening. Also, remember never to have your blood pressure
checked on that arm.
- Lymphedema (swelling of the arm): If you
have had your lymph nodes removed, there is a chance of developing this
condition. This can occur even 20 years after your operation. Perform
monthly measurements of your arm to monitor any increases in diameter
and immediately report these changes to your physician. Remember, even
if lymphedema does occur, it can be treated. Talk to your doctor about
seeing a physical therapist for help.
Post-Mastectomy and Lumpectomy
Range of Motion Exercises
Even if your arm movement is within normal range immediately following
surgery/radiation, it may become restricted months or years later secondary
to scar tissue, postural changes, or under-use. To maintain your range,
try the following simple routines:
Just for Luck Exercise: Every time
you enter and exit the bathroom do the following:
Reach up with your affected arm and touch the top of the door opening.
If anyone inquires why, tell them it’s “just for luck”
and since it is to help increase your range, it really is a “lucky”
Toilet Exercise: Every time you sit on the
toilet, try this stretch/breathing exercise:
Start with your head bowed, your hands folded in your lap. As you take
in a deep breath, raise your arms and face to the ceiling, stretching
and wiggling your fingers as you do so. As you exhale, return to the starting
position. Do this three times.
Corner Stretch: Stand facing a corner of the
room and perform the following two times a day:
Place each hand on the wall at shoulder height. Keep your feet flat on
the floor and your stomach tight and body straight. Bring your forehead
and chest in towards the wall. Slowly count to 10 and return to the starting
position. Repeat this three times.
Zipper Stretch: Stand up tall and straight
or sit upright on the edge of a chair to do the following two times a
Reach behind your back with the affected arm, trying to “zip”
up your spine beginning from the small of your back up toward the level
of your bra strap. DO NOT ARCH YOUR BACK! Slowly count to 10, return to
start. Do this three times. Compare with your unaffected arm.