Mastectomy Pain

What is a Mastectomy?

A Mastectomy is a removal of the breast usually due to cancer. In the past this entailed the removal of the entire breast. More recent medical advancements have allowed many women to remove the cancer itself and treat the remaining tissue.

What Kind Of Symptoms May I Feel?

  • Pain in the surgical scar
  • Pain in the chest wall and upper arm
  • "Phantom" pains in the removed tissue
  • Swelling of the arm

How Can Inspirit Help Me?

Early intervention by a physical therapist can help women regain full function following mastectomy surgery. Some of the specific post-mastectomy problems physical therapy can alleviate are described below. These problems can occur whether or not a woman has had reconstruction.

  • After mastectomy surgery, you may experience tightness emanating from your surgical site. This is caused by scar tissue, which is the body's way of healing from surgery. The result can be very dense tissue under your incision, which is painful and which can restrict your arm's range of motion (ROM). The restricted ROM puts you more at risk for a painful condition known as frozen shoulder. While a physical therapist (PT) may not be able to restore one hundred percent of your pre-surgery level of shoulder function, early treatment by Inspirit Therapy Associates will make it more likely that you'll regain functional ROM and strength.
  • You may also have numbness and/or nerve sensitivity at your surgical site. Manual physical therapy can help restore sensation and relieve nerve pain. In severe cases, a chronic condition, known as post-mastectomy pain syndrome, may develop. This can be caused by scar tissue impinging on nerves. Physical therapy can be very effective at releasing scar tissue and thus reducing nerve-related pain.
  • Your body's balance and symmetry can be significantly altered after a mastectomy. This is something many women aren't prepared for.  Inspirit Therapy Associates can help you address this problem.
  • If you've had either a sentinel node biopsy or an axillary node dissection, your armpit area may be painful and movement may be restricted due to scar tissue. You may also develop axillary web syndrome, also known as cording. Cording presents as a moderately to severely painful tightening, which appears as “cords” that emanate from your axilla and extend down your arm, restricting range of motion and arm function. Over time, this condition may resolve on its own, but with a Physical Therapist's help, using manual therapy and therapeutic stretching, it's likely to resolve much more quickly.
  • If your treatment includes five to seven weeks of daily radiation after mastectomy surgery, this may further exacerbate posture and range of motion problems by causing fibrosis and skin tightness. Manual therapy by a physical therapist can remediate these issues and, if initiated early, may prevent them from ever becoming a problem. After radiation, your skin may also be prone to excessive dryness and susceptible to cuts and abrasions. A Physical Therapist can advise you about a good skin care regimen.
  • If you've had lymph nodes removed, especially if lymph node surgery is followed by radiation, your risk of lymphedema is higher than for other women. Many Physical Therapists believe that early  intervention after surgery and radiation can reduce that risk. While there are not yet studies proving this, the theory is that manual therapy to minimize scar tissue and fibrosis, along with education on risk-reducing strategies (including a good skin care regimen), will help prevent lymphedema.

Finding the right physical therapist is critical to getting the appropriate care.   We invite you to ask your doctor for a referral to Inspirit Therapy Associates, where we put you first.


Contact Inspirit Therapy Associates

Phone: 920.338.9670
Fax: 920.338.9680

Or contact us by mail:

Inspirit Therapy Associates
3208 East River Drive
Green Bay, WI 54301

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