Radiation therapy is often used to treat breast cancer and may cause a number of side effects. Breast Rehab offers therapies that can help you manage and minimize the impact of these effects.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy uses high energy waves to damage or destroy cancer cells. Radiation is a local therapy, as it is targeted to a very specific area on the body, which will be marked in advance with small tattoo dots on your skin. The goal is to kill cancer cells in a defined area and avoid as much healthy tissue as possible. While the radiation treatment itself is painless, it can cause several side effects.
Treating the effects of radiation
If you are having radiation following surgery, you may benefit from physiotherapy prior to starting radiation treatments. If you have had a mastectomy and/or lymph nodes removed, you may experience difficulty moving your arm on the affected side, particularly if you have developed cording. Physiotherapy or massage therapy can help improve shoulder and arm mobility and diminish cording, allowing the radiation therapists to position your arm as necessary for the treatments.
One of the primary side effects of radiation is skin changes. Radiation to the breast or chest wall can result in skin damage similar to sunburn. The extent of the impact depends on the size of the area being treated and the number of treatments. It is important to practice good skin care to keep the skin moisturized and to keep the tissue as healthy as possible.
Fatigue is another common side effect of radiation. The impact of radiation doses is cumulative; fatigue can increase over the course of treatment and can continue for a period after the treatments have finished. Even just attending daily appointments can be both a physical and mental drain on your energy. A fitness routine adapted to your needs can help motivate you to keep moving.
Breast Rehab staff can conduct an assessment and create a plan to prepare for radiation treatments and address their side effects. We can provide physio and massage therapy to ensure you have the necessary range of motion to receive radiation, educate you on effective skin care, and develop fitness plans to increase your mobility or combat fatigue.
If chemo or radiation will be part of your cancer treatment, therapists at Breast Rehab can work with you to prepare for and manage some of the effects of these treatments. We will do whatever we can to support you to get back to doing what you love.