October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and much is being written about risk factors, prevention, symptoms, and treatments. I’d like to focus on some considerations, from diagnosis, to before, and after, any type of breast surgery be it lumpectomy, mastectomy or reconstruction.

DIAGNOSIS:

After diagnosis, it’s important to focus on three things.

1) Begin eating a healthy diet if you are not doing so already. This means plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and healthy grains. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

2) Begin some form of relaxation/meditation/prayer/breath work, anything that will help you release anxiety, provide a sense of confidence and develop a positive attitude.

3) If you have been inactive or sedentary now is the time to prepare your body for the upcoming surgery and treatments by engaging in some form of gentle exercise. SIT AND BE FIT would be perfect.

POST SURGERY:

  • Physical activity will be an important part of your recovery. Movement matters when it comes to regaining your strength, reducing fatigue and maintaining your emotional well-being.
  • Have a discussion with your physician prior to surgery about post-surgery exercise. Do not begin any exercise program without talking to your doctor. Ask for specific exercises, precautions and, if possible, a referral to a physical therapist or rehabilitation program.
  • Overall stretching exercises are key and especially important to restore shoulder mobility.
  • Some exercises may not be done until all the stitches and drains have been removed, so that should be taken into consideration.
  • You may experience some tightness in your chest and/or armpit. This is normal and should decrease as you continue to gently exercise.
  • Surgery can irritate some nerves and produce feelings of burning, tingling or soreness on the back of the arm and/or chest wall, which can be expected. However, any unusual swelling or tenderness should be reported to the doctor immediately.
  • Avoid air travel and anything that involves prolonged sitting to keep from developing a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Your risk for DVT increases during the first two weeks at home following surgery or hospitalization. So KEEP MOVING!
  • Ask your doctor if you need to wear a compression garment during exercise or when traveling.
  • Get plenty of sleep and continue all the good lifestyle changes you started after diagnosis (mentioned above).
  • Check with your doctor if you do not have full use of your arm 3 or 4 weeks after surgery.

I hope this information is helpful if you or someone close to you is facing breast cancer. Knowing what to anticipate can provide peace of mind and a positive mental attitude for the journey.

Best wishes for your good health,
Mary Ann

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