Physical limitations after breast reconstruction
Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I teach fitness classes and am trying to find information on exercising after breast reconstruction due to cancer.
Lora Packel MS, PT, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, responds:
Women with breast reconstruction will have some physical limitations, but this varies depending on the type and extent of their surgery. It is important for any patient to discuss her physical limitations with the plastic surgeon before starting an exercise program. Exercise can harm the reconstruction site if it is started too early and too aggressively.
Women who undergo reconstruction involving abdominal muscle or tissue are often limited for the first three months after surgery. For example, in cases where abdominal muscles are used for the reconstruction (i.e. TRAM reconstruction), patients may be unable to do abdominal exercises for the rest of their lives because this musculature is no longer there. I would recommend that patients see a physical therapist who specializes in women's health and oncology rehabilitation to prescribe a safe program that is appropriate for the patient's stage of recovery.
It is also important to consider the stage of the person�s disease, whether it has spread to bone, and what treatments they are presently undergoing. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy will influence the type of exercise that the patient can safely tolerate, and should be prescribed by a health care professional who understands their relationship to exercise tolerance. For more information, I would recommend reading "Essential Exercises for Breast Cancer Survivors" written by Halverstadt and Leonard.