The Benefits and Effects of Exercise on Post-Treatment Breast Cancer Patients

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INTRODUCTION

Exercise can be very beneficial for reducing pain and swelling, improving range of motion and strength, and improving a person’s overall quality of life. There are many variations of exercise that can be done as well because different people require different intensities and types of exercise regarding their diagnosis and their treatment care plan. Post-treatment breast cancer patients experience a great amount of pain during and after their treatments.

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This pain can be caused by the surgeries like a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, or a double mastectomy. The pain may also be due to the type of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or medicinal treatment they are receiving during or after the surgery is performed. One of the most common problems that women face post-surgery and treatment is lymphedema of the arm, axillary (armpit) area, and the shoulder according to Sagen et al. (15). This is common due to the removal of lymph nodes surrounding the tumor that is being excised (15). This brings up the category of strengthening the arm and shoulder areas. Since this is one of the most affected areas for breast cancer patients, its strength will need to be built up again after being weakened after surgery or treatment. These surgeries and treatments will cause a large amount of scar tissue that is built up which is discussed by Otoole J, Russell T, Taghian A. (14).

This makes recovery even more challenging when trying to reach or move the arms or the axillary area. The scar tissue problem can be dealt with by performing stretching exercises, whether it be in a pool or on land, as well as a therapist massaging the scar tissue out to loosen up the fibers (14). When this area is strengthened and stretched it helps break up some of the scar tissue formed in these areas. At first this may be done in a physical therapy setting where a therapist can perform active stretching to encourage the breast cancer patient to push their limits (4, 14, 15). This allows for an increased range of motion (ROM) (4,14,15). When the breast cancer patient starts to feel more independent, they may want to try and continue to stretch and strengthen with yoga. This stretching class helps the patients to alleviate pain and improve their quality of life (QOL) by doing something that may be considered more enjoyable than therapy (3). When patients are recovering from the treatments they have received, along with therapy, it is hard for them to stay motivated to be active. They are left feeling fatigued and sore. They are also instructed to wait for a certain allotment of time, typically eight weeks, before performing any physical activity (7,9). This takes a toll on the patient’s strength,

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