A diagnosis of breast cancer knocks the wind out of you. The world as you know it is gone. Most women think of radiation, chemo-therapy, mastectomy, losing their hair, and worst of all, leaving their families. But breast cancer isn't the automatic death sentence it once was. Fewer than one is six women will die of the disease. Most women who have breast cancer will beat it. According to the American Cancer Society, there are 2.8 million survivors in the U.S.
This doesn't mean that life goes back to normal. The aftermath of treatment can be brutal, physically and emotionally. Pain, stiffness, exhaustion, and swelling are the main complaints.
Renata Beaman is a breast cancer physical therapist, trained to help women after treatment to aid recovery, diminish pain, and prevent lymphedema. "My job is to help people get stronger and more functional safely; my goal is to empower them after so much is taken away."
Beaman addresses the back, rib and shoulder discomfort that results from cutting the chest. Exercises for restoring flexibility and strengthening muscles give women a goal to shoot for.
Lymphedema is a common problem after surgery. Doctors remove lymph nodes to be certain that all the cancerous tissue is gone. This can hinder the movement of lymph fluid and cause swelling. Compression, massage and exercise can alleviate the discomfort and help to prevent further swelling.
Working with breast cancer patients inspires Beaman when she sees the grit and motivation of how they fight to get their "normal" lives back on track. Only about one third of breast cancer patients are referred by their physicians for physical therapy. Beaman says, "It's my passion to change that; make it a standard part of their cancer treatment, and it’s my hope that one day it will be."
Physical therapy and other allied health jobs are available now. If you're ready to find your ideal place in the field, contact us.
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