Physical Therapy for Breast Cancer Patients

Breast Cancer and Physical Therapy

Nobody plans for breast cancer, but it is a reality that more and more women are having to face. When you hear that you have breast cancer, it can feel like your world has been ripped apart. It is very scary and disorientating. I want you to know though, other women have been where you are right now, not knowing what to do. But as soon as they found the strength to take positive steps towards their recovery, they immediately felt more in control.

Recovering from breast cancer with physical therapy

To understand how to treat breast cancer, it is important to understand that it is primarily a system disease that triggers off a whole bunch of physiological responses. Therefore, as it is a system disease it requires a systematic approach. A systematic approach, built on multidisciplinary teamwork, will ultimately result in a well-rounded treatment program. Surgical procedures are the foundation of treatment in the first phase of this disease and are not to be ignored as the initial line of defense. Together with surgical procedures, there are other complementary therapies that can greatly contribute to both the pre- and post-surgical period. Physical therapy can help the patient to successfully endure the surgical procedures, and recover quickly to regain independence.

What are the goals of breast cancer physical therapy?

If you have to undergo a complex and demanding surgery, such as a mastectomy, physical therapy has an important role to play in your recovery. Pre- and post-operative rehabilitation consists of physical therapy procedures that aim to ease the stressful changes happening to your body and prepare you for the time ahead. The main goal is to be as strong as you can going into the operation so that your recovery period is as short as possible.

What should I expect from prehabilitation therapy?

Breast-Cancer-physical therapy brooklyn

I want to stress to you that we will explain everything in full to you so that you are 100% confident about what the therapy will consist of. When you start the prehab therapy process, we will give you all the necessary information on how to behave in certain situations and how you can help yourself by exercising, and therefore ensure a healthy foundation for the tough period to come.

Our team at Evolve will make an assessment of your stats, overall strength, postural integrity, range of motion, etc. This will give us a clearer picture of what we should work on so that you can go through this period more easily. Also, we will explain every potential complication that can come as a result of this surgery, so that you will be equipped with how to overcome them.

What should I expect from post-surgery rehabilitation?

After a mastectomy, we work with our patients systematically in order to avoid any complications from lymphedema and muscle contractions. We also look to provide assistance with:

  • Reducing pain

  • Preserving a range of motion in the shoulder joints

  • Achieving normal circulatory and respiratory functions

  • Improving your quality of life in regular daily activities

What is lymphedema and how can physical therapy help me with it?

After breast cancer surgery, upon removal of axillary lymph nodes, lymphedema or swelling of the arm can occur. Arm lymphedema very often manifests after the standard radiological treatment. Usually, lymphedema retreats within 2-3 months, when the new lymphatic network establishes.

Fearing it may worsen over time, most patients make the same mistake of not engaging the affected arm in any unnecessary activity. However, inactivity of the operated shoulder and arm leads to deformities, contractures, stiffness and further loss of functionality. In order to avoid that, we will lead you through a series of exercises that will ensure re-establishment of normal functions of the arm.

How we do this here at Evolve:

  • Exercises are done slowly, rhythmically, in a seated position and without resistance.

  • Exercises are performed in combination with breathing exercises, giving you a bonus respiratory kinesitherapy session!

  • Other exercises for retaining normal strength in the upper arm, as well as grip strength which is essential in daily life, are also carried out.

  • Evolve will provide total support in the rehab period

Usually, 1 or 2 days after the operation, patients can return home and slowly start to engage in normal activities. This is the point where you need to start the rehab period with a program of targeted physical therapy. Your period of convalescence and healing should be packed with various activities that not only restore previous functions of the limb but provide you with the necessary motivation and mental strength, something that is even more vital in life situations like this.

Breast cancer can have an incredible impact upon your mental health, affecting your motivation going through the rehab period. Our team is here to support you with physical therapy and rehabilitation, but also to provide firm ground whenever you feel that you've hit a wall or don't believe physical therapy will make a change. This is all completely understandable, but you can rest assured that the Evolve team will support you while facing this situation head on. The first step is to come and see us at one of our physical therapy clinics in Brooklyn, NY. We will explain everything you need to know and start the process as soon as you are ready.

About Evolve Physical Therapy in Brooklyn:

Brooklyn's Premier Holistic Physical Therapy Clinics!


There’s physical therapy, there’s training, and then there’s EVOLVE. We use the science of biomechanics merged with fitness to help our patients get better and stay better!

First we evaluate, then we heal, then we strengthen our clients so they can reach their goals, feel better, and live happier lives. We do so by utilizing a range of core techniques and specialized treatments to reduce pain, improve mobility, enhance physical strength and deal with the underlying issues, not just the pain itself.

Multiple Locations!