Last year, an estimated 230,480 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed among women. Though recovery varies greatly for each patient, and not every one of these patients with breast cancer will require rehabilitation services post-treatment, swelling and range-of-motion problems following treatment can prevent them from returning to normal daily activities. 

Treatment for breast cancer, which includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, causes many patients to experience pain and stiffness in the chest, shoulder and back muscles, as well as initial swelling and numbness near a surgical incision site. Other common side effects of breast cancer treatment include nerve irritation, as radiation and surgery can cause nerves to become swollen, which can result in numbness, pain or tingling sensations. Fatigue is also common and can easily overwhelm a patient.

Though recovery varies greatly for each patient, and not every one of these patients with breast cancer will require rehabilitation services post-treatment, swelling and range-of-motion problems following treatment can prevent them from returning to normal daily activities. One of the most effective ways to treat the side effects of breast cancer treatment is to begin a provider-approved course of arm exercises. Occupational and physical therapists can teach patients basic exercises that will stretch and strengthen the muscles of the chest, back, shoulders and arms, preventing stiffness and reducing pain. Increased flexibility can improve a patient’s posture, which helps with pain management. And a supervised, gradual return to exercise can also reduce both nerve irritation and fatigue.

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