Recovering from Breast Cancer Surgery

Exercise a key component of breast cancer recovery

No cancer has received as much publicity as breast cancer. Whether it’s “Save the TaTas” or pink team gear featured by the NFL or MLB, breast cancer is the heavy hitter when it comes to raising awareness — and money — of the deadly disease.

Yet all that publicity and money doesn’t alter the fact that breast cancer remains the most common form of cancer afflicting women. Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.


In 2014, there were 232,670 cases anticipated to be diagnosed in women. Only prostate cancer in men has a higher rate of incidence in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Breast cancer origins

Breast cancer arises when a malignant tumor develops from the uncontrolled growth of breast cells. As treatments continue to improve, the deadliness of the disease decreases.

Treatment for breast cancer varies but typically involves surgery. These surgeries can affect shoulder and arm movement, making difficult such routine tasks as brushing your hair, opening doors or petting a dog.

The pain and stiffness from surgery can leave women feeling weak and frustrated as their mobility is limited and tasks that were previously simple can become arduous or even too difficult to complete.

Whether it’s surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or a combination, physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy can help women recover and regain independence.

Breast Cancer Rehabilitation

Physical therapy is typically incorporated after a mastectomy. A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast, usually in women with multiple large areas of cancerous cells. It’s also used for women hoping to prevent any possibility of breast cancer occurring.

For patients recovering from a mastectomy, physical therapy can help decrease numbness, fatigue, pain and stiffness. Programs designed by physical therapists can include endurance, training and stretching.

Other treatments include manual therapy techniques to reduce scar tissue adhesions, which is the pain that is associated with scars and surgery.

Therapists can teach patients basic exercises that will stretch and strengthen the muscles in their chest, back, shoulders and arms, consequently preventing stiffness and reducing pain.

Physical therapists can also administer various types of therapeutic including electrical stimulation, hydrotherapy, traction, massage and the application or heat or cold to benefit a patient in their recovery.

Yoga as a remedy

An alternative remedy includes yoga, which helps women to get their ribs moving after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Yoga incorporates deep breathing, gentle movements and can increase a woman’s range of motion after surgery.

Low-intensity physical activity is another element that can aid in breast cancer recovery. A physical therapist can design a program to reduce the risk of the disease’s recurrence and improve survival rate.

A U.S. study of breast cancer survivors between the years 2008-11 found that only 35 percent of survivors met physical activity guidelines. Exercise can also be instrumental in avoiding the disease. A 2014 French study found that the more active a woman is, the better her odds of avoiding breast cancer.

The Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic in Norge offers a Breast Cancer Physical Therapy rehabilitation program. Clinical Director Jessi Voltin, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT, is specialized in working with breast cancer patients by implementing treatment programs that get women back to their normal lifestyles.

For more information on the Breast Cancer Physical Therapy rehabilitation program, call 757.345.0753. The Tidewater Physical Therapy Norge clinic is located at 7151 Richmond Road, Ste. 101 in Williamsburg, Va.


Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing them to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription.    As part of a healthcare team, a physical therapist will make an assessment of a patient’s condition and create a plan to start on the road to wellness. The Tidewater Physical Therapy team will communicate with a patient’s physician or dentist of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for continued treatment. Tidewater Physical Therapy will also work with insurance carriers to make sure services are covered by a patient’s plan.