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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

Breast care following surgery for breast cancer 

Updated: May 8

Breast cancer affects 55,000 women and 400 men each year - with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes. Cancer cases are on the rise, and the survival rate for breast cancer is now at 80% thanks to advancements in research and innovation and opportunities for earlier diagnoses. Yet despite the thousands of women diagnosed each year, 80% of whom undergo a mastectomy or lumpectomy, self-care and support post-surgery still leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Taking care of your breasts following surgery doesn’t just offer physical benefits and enhanced wellbeing – it’s also a gentle way to reconnect with a part of your body which is strongly connected to our femininity and yet through the cancer journey has become a source of worry and anxiety. Many women feel disconnected from themselves, their bodies and their femininity following breast cancer surgery, all whilst dealing with further treatment, side-effects and physical recovery.

 

Here I’ve shared some of the most transformational ways I help ladies who have undergone surgery for breast cancer, using a blend of integrative treatments designed to support both body and mind.  

 

Physiotherapy

 

Physiotherapy is often overlooked post-surgery nowadays, and it has a remarkable impact on recovery, reducing pain, restoring softness to any ‘stuck’ areas and easing mobility. I offer specialist oncology physiotherapy which is focused post-surgery on helping patients to regain their range of movement and soothe and prevent joint stiffness. After cancer treatment, we can sometimes lose some mobility or strength due to being less active during recovery or having post-op mobility restrictions from the surgeon whilst healing takes place. Physiotherapy helps to restore regular movement, improving activity levels and quality of life through enabling you to get back to doing the things you love more quickly.

 

Help with cording

 

Cording or Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS) is a common side effect following lymph node removal during breast surgery. It can be a painful complication that’s easy to treat, but sadly it’s under-recognised and often goes undiagnosed.

 

Lymph node removal or dissection is often carried out during mastectomy, lumpectomy or as a surgery in itself. In the days and weeks after lymph node dissection many women begin to experience sharp pain in their armpit, most often when they are stretching the arm upwards and outwards. Tightness in the area can develop which usually extends along the arm, sometimes past the elbow and towards the wrist. The affected area of tissues gradually thickens and becomes visible and noticeable to the touch. It’s known as ‘cording’ because it looks a little like a cord under the skin or may appear as several cords, creating a web of hardened tissue in the armpit. 

 

Cording is incredibly common – and with targeted physiotherapy and exercises it can be healed within a few months or even a few weeks in milder cases, when caught early. If you feel you may be experiencing cording post-surgery, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to your GP and ask for a referral or seek out a specialist oncology physiotherapist like myself for support.

 

Scar massage

 

Scarring following breast surgery can cause distress due to its affect on our appearance and body image. Radiotherapy following surgery also affects scars often leading to further tightness, aches and pains, which can develop into additional side effects or conditions in themselves. Scar massage is a gentle, minimally invasive and highly effective treatment for scars, which helps with scar healing and improves the look and flexibility of a scar. It also prevents tightness forming which can lead to muscular aches and pains, simultaneously helping to heal and process emotions associated with surgery.

 

Lymphoedema

 

There is a risk of lymphoedema with any surgery – and it is often associated with surgical interventions for breast cancer. This is because the surgery often involves the removal or dissection of the lymph nodes, which help to carry excess fluid and waste filled with toxins to be excreted by the body. Lymphoedema can develop at any time following surgery from within a few days to as long as many years later. Lymphoedema is not curable but it can be managed.


If the lymph nodes have been removed there are a variety of treatments which can help to reduce the risk of developing lymphoedema, ease symptoms, and provide relief, including lymphatic drainage, reflexology lymph drainage, breathwork and exercise advice. These proven integrative therapies are effective both as a treatment and for the prevention of lymphoedema.

 

Mindset work

 

If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll know how important mindset is on the cancer journey. The experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer and all the challenges it brings can have a significant impact on our emotional and mental wellbeing – compounding existing underlying triggers and belief systems.


My mindset work is focused on the individual and tailored to each person’s unique needs – much of it revolves around processing emotions related to diagnosis and surgery to support recovery and prevent the reoccurrence of dis-ease. Mindset work can also help you to cope with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis or surgery, with sensitive support to address concerns around body image and anxiety over what the future looks like now. You can find more about my holistic Breast Care Wellness Package and The Cancer Wellness Path Membership here. 

 

Your environment matters

 

One last piece of advice I have for ladies who have recently undergone breast cancer surgery (or any kind of cancer-related surgery) is to seek treatment outside of a hospital environment. This is because being in an overtly medical or clinical space often causes us to focus more on illness, rather than wellness. Being in a hospital environment can be triggering in itself – and it’s filled with constant reminders that something is ‘wrong’. By contrast, holistic therapeutic spaces feel calm, comfortable and welcoming – they bring feelings of hope, optimism and better health. If you have the option to do so, explore the possibility of external or home-based appointment settings with your treatment providers.


If you are looking for private breast care support following a diagnosis of cancer then I would love to support you within my Wilmslow Clinic.


Get in touch here - www.physiocareholistics.co.uk



 

 

 

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