Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in Canadian women. While it can be found in men, male breast cancer is a very rare occurrence. With the advancements in technology and interventions, it has resulted in high survivorship rates for both women and men diagnosed with breast cancer. Studies support that long after the disease has been removed, many people are left with physical, emotional and psychosocial impairments that often go unrecognized.
Every year, almost 30,000 women get diagnosed with breast cancer. Of these, many will require mastectomy surgery and lymph node removal. This surgery often causes altered tensions in the muscles and tissues surrounding the breast, arm pit and shoulder.
In the beginning, arm and shoulder movements may be limited, making it difficult for overhead movements or reaching, and can cause pain. The surrounding muscles will have weakened and shortened and could benefit from physiotherapy to help restore their normal length and strength.
Another system that gets impacted by this surgery is the lymphatic system. The primary focus of the lymphatic system is to remove excessive water and contaminates (inflammation) from the blood and tissues. When lymphatic vessels have been impacted, such as with lymph node removal, the pathways of the system can become congested or blocked, resulting in swelling. The resulting lymphedema causes persistent swelling in the arm(s), breast, abdomen, legs, neck or head.
Common treatment options:
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