Breast Cancer Awareness and National Physical Therapy Month

I think we all can agree that October is a special month with the beauty of changing leaves and the mystery of unpredictable weather.  It also holds National Chocolate Week (October 10-16, yum!) and has been declared National Pizza Month (really! Yum again!). And let’s not forget the fun of seeing kids tromp around in their costumes-often covered by coats thanks to that unpredictable Colorado weather—on Halloween.  This month is also famous around the world for Breast Cancer Awareness, and here in the USA, as National Physical Therapy Month.

Breast Cancer impacts all of us, as most of us love someone who has dealt with this disease or we have dealt with it ourselves.  This month, I’d like to take a moment to look at how physical therapy can impact a person’s journey with cancer, including breast cancer.

Treatment of Cancer

Cancer treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgeries.  These treatments can yield many different side effects including:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of fitness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Nerve pain/problems
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Nausea
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Wounds/scars
  • Weight changes

Although most of us don’t necessarily think of PT as a treatment for cancer, when you look at the side effects of cancer treatments, you might be able to recognize a connection.  If you’ve worked with a PT before, you know that we are experts at decreasing swelling, stiffness, and pain and at returning people to fitness!  Exercising with skilled guidance from a PT during cancer treatment is safe and can help maintain a sense of control and an outlet for the anxiety and depression that comes with fighting for your life.

Benefits of Exercise for People Fighting Cancer

We know that exercise can reduce the risk of falling that is common when people feel weak or dizzy from treatment. Exercise can also:

  • Decrease nausea
  • Minimize muscle wasting (atrophy)
  • Maintain healthy body weight
  • Improve bone density

Physical therapists routinely deal with wounds and provide manual therapy that ensures healthy scar formation.  Overall, PT has been shown to significantly improve quality of life for individuals during and after a cancer fight.

This month we encourage you to enjoy the changing leaves, unpredictable weather, costumes, chocolate and pizza.  And as you honor all those who fight with breast cancer, remember to take care of your own breast health and don’t forget that your PT is here for you no matter what fight comes your way.