During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, ProFysio is delving into multiple topics relating to physical activity and physical therapy as it relates to treatment for breast cancer. This week, we’ll discuss the benefits of exercise as an important aspect of a cancer treatment plan, as many studies show how regular physical activity can improve physical and mental health in all stages of treatment. This is true even if you were not regularly active before your cancer diagnosis. A skilled physical therapist can work with your oncologist to help determine how to help get you moving safely.
Is Exercise Safe for Breast Cancer Patients?
Yes, depending on the patient’s unique circumstances. Breast cancer patients may have lymphedema, fatigue, a lower white blood cell count, and neuropathy, among other side effects they could face from treatment. By working with an oncologist, a physical therapist can help determine which exercise would best benefit you and potentially improve your symptoms.
You should ask your oncologist prior to starting an exercise program, particularly if you have:
- Low white blood cell count: This can compromise your immune system. You should avoid public gyms or exercise studios until your white blood cell count goes up.
- Neuropathy: If you have pain in your hands or feet, make sure you take precautions against falling or injuring yourself. In general, patients with breast cancer are a higher risk of falling.
- Heart disease: You’ll likely have to stick to low intensity exercises, especially if you’re on a chemo- or targeted therapy that can worsen heart disease.
What to Watch For
If you develop shortness of breath, pain, or chest tightness, you should stop exercising immediately, and make sure to tell your doctor what happened leading up to and during your exercise-induced condition. Your doctor can help develop a movement plan that is better suited to your abilities, and help you understand why you may face these difficulties while exercising.
How a Physical Therapist Can Help
During physical therapy, you will learn more about how to cope with the physical side effects of breast cancer treatment. You’ll also learn the best exercises for breast cancer so you can improve your range of motion, reduce scarring, and have an overall better quality of life. It’s a good idea to ask your physical therapist about what intensity level workout you can handle, and whether you can increase or decrease the intensity over time.
Ready to get started on an exercise program to combat breast cancer treatment side effects? ProFysio can help. Contact us today at (732) 812-5200 to book your appointment.