woman stretching out arms

Gain access to what you need before and after treatment

As a double breast cancer survivor who was first diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and then five years later, Emily Pigott knows the disease all too well. For the past year, she has experienced limited mobility in her left arm due to the side effects of the mastectomy, scar tissue, and treatments.

“I lost a lot of strength in my arm,” Emily says. “Even getting my arm up high enough to dress myself was a challenge. I’m the type of person that tries to solve everything on my own, and then I realized it was only getting worse.”

Emily thought it was her new “normal” as a result of surviving breast cancer, but as an involved principal at Southwest Florida Christian Academy, it wasn’t something she was willing to let slow her down. When she consulted Rie Aihara, M.D., a specialist in breast cancer surgery, Emily discovered Lee Health offered physical therapy services for cancer rehabilitation.

“I didn’t know all the options out there,” Emily says. “My doctor gave me information, and I followed her advice to begin physical therapy. The results, even after one session, were amazing.”

Working with physical therapist Pat Curr, PT, Emily noticed an even bigger difference after two sessions. “I had tightening of the skin around the incision area, which began to loosen and as it loosened up, so did the areas around it,” she says. “It was really cool to see when Pat took my arm and put it over my head for the first time and it wasn’t painful.”

Pat collaborates with cancer rehabilitation navigator Denise Pfeiffer, who helps patients with any cancer diagnosis gain access to what they need before and after treatment. Denise also participates in the Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic at the Regional Cancer Center, a pre-surgical education class for patients prior to mastectomy surgery and coordinates access to nutritional counseling, physical therapy, and more.

“We prepare patients by showing them exercises to do so they know how to do them, what to do, precautions, and what to expect post-surgery,” Pat says. Outcomes are different for each person based on age, the type of surgery, and other factors.

The rehabilitation team works with patients who have or had a cancer diagnosis and suffer from treatment and surgery-related side effects or limitations. Cancer rehabilitation can help to address:

  • Weakness
  • Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy
  • Cancer-related fatigue
  • Cognitive problems
  • Musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain
  • Difficulty returning to activities

At home, Emily practices the stretches and exercises Pat taught her. She now uses her arm in ways she hasn’t been able to in a long time. “I’m back to lifting weights again because I feel confident,” she says. “It’s wonderful knowing that even post-surgery, post-radiation, and other treatments, we can get back to almost the same standard of living we had before.”

Ask your doctor about referring you to the cancer rehabilitation program. For more information, call 239-343-8850.

For patients with breast cancer, the Multidisciplinary Breast Health Clinic provides free consultations. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call breast cancer navigator Tammy Zinn at 239-343-9546.

Women age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram. Is it time for yours? Schedule your mammogram at one of our three Breast Health Centers today. Traditional and 3-D mammograms are available. Call the scheduling department at 239-424-1499.

Breast Health Center Locations:

Outpatient Center at Surfside
2441 Surfside Blvd.
Cape Coral, FL 33914
Outpatient Center at HealthPark Commons
16281 Bass Road, Suite 204
Fort Myers, FL 33908
Outpatient Center at the Sanctuary
8960 Colonial Center Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33905

Tags: Breast Health Clinic, cancer navigator program, mastectomy, breast cancer, Regional Cancer Center

Join us October 10th for the “Pink Event”

  • Join us from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Oct. 17 for the “Pink Event” in the Regional Cancer Center lobby. Cookie’s Place will offer a fitting event for breast prosthesis and garments from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Please call 239-343-9503 for more information.