The role of therapy in breast cancer treatment.

Most women are aware of the most common treatments for breast cancer, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But at Covenant, there's another member of the breast cancer team, one who can help women prevent or cope with both the emotional and physical side effects of cancer treatment. That's the therapist.

Covenant Occupational Therapist Ashley Wisniewski sat down with WNEM TV's Jamie Sherrod to talk about the critical role that therapy can play in breast cancer treatment and recovery. "We are looking at more of the side effects," she explains. "Now that they've gone through the chemotherapy and the radiation treatments, what are they still dealing with?"

But Covenant therapists don't wait until after treatment to begin helping breast cancer patients. Pre-treatment education is a key part of their job, so that patients go into surgery and/or other treatments knowing just what to expect.

Treatment side effects: How therapists can help

Both during and after treatment, breast cancer patients may suffer from side effects that make everyday life more difficult.

  • Lymphedema – A common side effect of breast cancer, lymphedema refers to swelling, usually in the arms and legs, due to excess lymph fluid. This is especially common in women who have had a lymph node removed during treatment or radiation to an area where lymph nodes are located. Your Therapist can help ease lymphedema through massage, exercise, and compression.
  • Fatigue – Fatigue and weakness are some of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. While rest sounds like the answer, too much rest and inactivity can compound the problem. Your Therapist will help you find the optimal amount of exercise to help you regain your strength and fight fatigue.
  • Pain – Pain and stiffness after surgery and/or treatment can make everyday activities difficult. Covenant Physical and Occupational Therapists utilize a variety of techniques to help alleviate pain, and targeted exercises and stretches can help improve a patient's range of motion, enabling them to return to functional daily tasks with less pain.
  • Cognitive Difficulties – Women who receive chemotherapy sometimes experience problems with their memory and concentration. Therapists aid in cognitive rehabilitation and provide coping techniques patients can use until these issues resolve (usually within 6-12 months).

Other side effects often experienced include nausea, sleep disturbances, loss of bone density and headaches. The experienced Therapists at Covenant have a variety of techniques to help alleviate these problems as well.

Throughout the journey of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, Covenant Therapists are there for breast cancer patients. "We follow them through the continuum of care," says Mrs. Wisniewski. "It's very rewarding to be able to connect with them and be able to help them through the rest of their care."

If you or a loved one is a breast cancer patient, your oncologist can give you a referral for Speech, Occupational, and physical therapy services.

Posted Date: 1/30/2019

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