Every year thousands of women undergo a mastectomy to remove breast cancer. Physical therapy is helping women return to their normal routine after surgery.
Emily Pigott is a two time breast cancer survivor. After undergoing a mastectomy five years ago, Emily started to notice limited mobility in her left arm. “I lost a lot of strength in my arm and then I wasn’t able to reach over my head, even putting clothes on and taking them off was a challenge because I couldn’t get my arm up as high as I wanted to.”
Common problems, Lee Health physical therapist Pat Curr sees with patients after surgery. “The scar can get very tight. They can get this heaviness and tightness in their chest and limited range of motion in their shoulder.”
But many patients, like Emily, accept the pain as their new normal. “You think that this is just the way you’ve got to cope and the way you have to live your life. It’s just so wonderful to know that even post-surgery, post radiation that we can get back to almost the same standard of living we had before,” said Emily.
Once she started physical therapy, the pain and weakness in her arm began to go away.
“We can do gentle range of motion and show them what they can and cannot do,” said Curr.
In and out of physical therapy, Emily would practice the stretches and safe movements assigned to her. The exercises not only helped her regain mobility in her arms, it also improved her confidence with her recovery. “She helped me understand that you’re really not going to damage it as long as you do the procedures the way that she has taught you to do it,” Emily said.
Pat says the goal is to help reduce pain and help patients return to their normal routine.
“I’ve started to use it in ways that I haven’t been able to in a long time” said Emily.
Physical therapists can also help patients with exercises before their surgery to give them a better idea of what to expect after surgery. Ways of helping them become comfortable with their new bodies.
View More Health Matters video segments at LeeHealth.org/Healthmatters/
Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.