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Upper extremity dysfunction following breast cancer treatment

by Specialized Orthopedics November 12, 2013

To help support Breast Cancer awareness as well as National Physical Therapy month I want to share some information about how physical therapy can benefit those receiving cancer treatments.

Currently more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors reside in the United States. Curative treatments and medical management have increased the survival rate of breast cancer however these treatments are associated with adverse affects of physical function.

One of the most prevalent impairments in women undergoing cancer treatment are shoulder and arm dysfunction. Women who have undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are at risk for lymphedema, radiation fibrosis, peripheral neuropathy and more. All of which can result in limited upper extremity mobility and function. Physical therapy starting as early as post-operative day 1 has shown to help limit the upper extremity impairments associated with cancer treatments.

Early intervention can help restore shoulder range of motion, improve strength and prevent secondary complications such as lymphedema. Therapeutic exercise and manual therapy listed below can help restore upper limb dysfunction in women receiving curative treatment for breast cancer.

• Active range of motion
• Passive range of motion
• Stretching and strengthening
• Resistance exercise
• Postural dynamics
• Proprioceptive Neuromuscular facilitation
• Scar tissue mobilization

Specialized Orthopedic Physical Therapy would like to help you during and after your recovery and treatment process by providing you with a structured exercise program to help prevent the secondary affects of cancer treatments on your upper extremity and promote optimal physical recovery.

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