Therapies Key For Breast Cancer Recovery Process

BERLIN — October is both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Physical Therapy Month, and Atlantic Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine (APT) reports the two are both relevant in October as physical and occupational therapies can play a big part in the recovery process following a battle with breast cancer.

“These women may have pain in their arms, limited range, swelling or they can’t do all of their self-care activities,” said Sally Hawkins, an occupational therapist specializing in breast cancer and Lymphedema, “so our whole goal in occupational therapy is to return women back to being able to do their prior level function.”

Physical therapy after breast cancer surgery is not always an immediate association that people will make. The therapy is generally associated with sports injuries or joint replacements, but recovery from breast cancer treatments can improve dramatically with some basic techniques and exercises, according to Bobby Hammond, a physical therapist at APT.

“A lot of people don’t realize the implications that breast cancer has after the fact,” he said. “There’s a restricted range of motion along with other things so physical therapy covers a wide range of deficits.”

Restoring articulation to affected areas of the body is a big part of any therapy program as breast cancer treatments and surgeries can impact range of motion in the shoulder. Hawkins recommends visiting a clinic like APT sooner rather than later following a surgery. Once patients learn exercises at the clinic, they can then work with their therapist on a home program.

Another reason to visit a professional rather than attempt to do everything at home, said Hawkins, is that there can be issues with swelling that need to be monitored.

“If they develop swelling in the arm, we go through Lymphedema precautions … If you have blood pressure or a needle stick, that can compromise the fluid circulation in the arm and therefore develop swelling,” she said.

Therapy can cover a wide range of treatments, including several different forms of massage, and Hawkins recommended that patients check to make sure that any clinic they look into is well experienced specifically with women’s health. Hawkins said APT offices have a dedicated focus on women’s health and look to support breast cancer treatment and awareness in the community whenever possible.

“All we want to do is on Fridays wear our pink shirts to honor [these] women because they’re not just survivors, they really are warriors,” she said.

APT as a whole has a solid record when it comes to breast cancer awareness. The company works with local agencies, such as Women Supporting Women, and has participated in events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Ocean City for several years. In fact, Hammond has won the race two years running and is looking to keep the streak going this year.

While October will mostly be geared toward breast cancer awareness, it is also National Physical Therapy Month and APT has some new projects and expansions in the pipeline. It recently started a “Power-Up” Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery Program that is designed to help people “take the fight to Parkinson’s,” according to Hammond. The idea is to proactively combat the effects of the disease at an early stage to improve movement as much as possible.

Robert Hammond, owner of Atlantic Physical Therapy, also confirmed a new West Ocean City branch off Route 611 should be ready to open this fall. The practice already has offices in Berlin, Millsboro, Laurel, Philadelphia, Salisbury and Fenwick. The addition of a West Ocean City branch should fill a big need in the community, said Robert Hammond, and extend necessary coverage.