NEW YORK (CNN) - The thousands of women treated for breast cancer may be left with more than emotional and physical scars. When the cancer is gone, side effects can remain.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age thirty-nine, Mary Margaret Thomas was an active mother of three young children. She was uneasy about the future.
“Even though I felt like I was going to get beyond breast cancer, what was my life going to be like after that treatment had ended,” said Thomas.
Impairments that are common after treatment for breast cancer include:
- Restricted range of motion
- Lymphedema, characterized by arm, breast or chest swelling
Thomas sought out rehabilitation right after her first surgery.
“Rehab has been shown in clinical studies in treating many of those side effects of treatment. For example, with manual therapy, exercises, stretching and exercises at home, we can really bring a woman's range of motion back much more quickly than if she didn't have that,” said Jill Binkley, a physical therapist at Turning Point.
The goal for patients? Return to the lifestyle they had before cancer.
“In the past, we weren’t focused on referring patients as aggressively to rehab as we are today. With early intervention, we can have a woman go back to her normal quality of life with excellent range of motion, minimal swelling of her arm, and any other effects that surgery or radiation might cause,” said Dr. Sheryl Gabram, a breast surgical oncologist at Emory Winship Cancer Institute.
Although she has symptoms that come and go, Thomas has returned to being active: boating and kayaking with her family.
“That is something that really completes the cure for me.”