Breast Cancer and Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy When you Have a Breast Cancer Diagnosis ​

  • Are you finding it hard to lift your arm up after surgery for breast cancer, or does it feel like it’s tight and restricted?
  • Do you have pain and swelling in your arm or stiffness or pain in your neck?
  • Do you want to get back into exercise after your surgery and/or treatment, but are not sure how to start?

With over 20 years of experience working with leading surgeons and oncologists, our experienced physiotherapy team can support you through all phases of your breast cancer treatment.

Many people with a cancer diagnosis report feeling fearful of exercise, worrying that it will worsen their fatigue or lead to falls. Physiotherapy-prescribed, supervised and supported exercise has been shown to reduce your side effects, maintain your physical condition and improve your treatment outcomes during chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

After your surgery, your physiotherapist will support you to recover your shoulder movement, reduce any scarring, and help with shoulder or neck pain. Cording sometimes occurs after lymph nodes have been removed. Many describe cording as feeling like a tight band from their armpit down their arm that restricts their movement, such as lifting their arm to reach into high cupboards, due to pain or discomfort. An experienced women’s health physiotherapist can treat any cording you may have, helping to improve your shoulder movement and reduce pain. Even if you are not experiencing cording, general shoulder and neck stiffness can also make it difficult for you to move. Physiotherapy can help to reduce any tightness you may have and restore your neck and shoulder range of motion.

Appropriate scar tissue management is recommended to ensure that your scar is healing well. Your physiotherapist can show you how to look after your scar so that you’re able to manage this on your own.

Common Symptoms

Common problems after breast cancer surgery and treatment for breast cancer, can vary depending your specialist management, but may include:

  • Pain and discomfort in the breast or surrounding area
  • Swelling in the breast or arm on the affected side (this can be lymphoedema)
  • Reduced arm movement and stiffness in the shoulder
  • Numbness and tingling in the breast, arm or underarm area
  • Scar tissue around the incision site, causing tightness, discomfort and restricted movement
  • Depending on the extent of surgery, your breast may appear smaller, or there may be changes in the shape or position of your breast.
  • Emotional impact
  • Fatigue after chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
  • Reduced tolerance to exercise
  • Reduced strength in your upper body
  • Reduced bone density
  • Reduced overall strength and balance

It’s important to note that not all people experience the same problems after breast cancer surgery or treatment, and some have no complications at all. Seeking support from healthcare professionals can help manage your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

How can we Help?

At Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy, our experienced Women’s Health Physiotherapists provide a range of services. They will talk to you to understand your unique symptoms related to your surgery or treatment, such as changes in muscle strength, endurance and fatigue; changes in your range of movement, swelling or lymphoedema and pain. They will explain any precautions indicated in your particular circumstance that will minimise your risk of complications, such as swelling and a stiff shoulder, as well as guide you through an exercise program approved by the Breast Cancer Association.

Our physiotherapists often prescribe exercises on PhysiApp providing you with access to a personalised exercise program accessible on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. The App can also be used to connect with your physiotherapist via video conference, instead of in clinic. Many people find this a convenient and accessible way to get timely advice and manage some of their symptoms.

It’s important to seek further assistance from a physiotherapist if you need help with your exercises, experience any neck or shoulder stiffness, or notice any scar tightening or arm swelling.

Our Connected Care Approach

With our unique ‘Connected Care’ approach, our team will expertly help you to prepare for your surgery, provide you with physiotherapy during your hospital stay, while you heal, as well as during chemotherapy and radiation therapy and assist you in returning to normal activity after treatment. You can connect with your physio in hospital, in our clinics and during our online video consultations.

What to Expect From my Appointment?

  • Detailed Interview to fully understand your symptoms, medical and surgical history and your specific goals.
  • Physical Assessment of your movement, strength, and exercise tolerance as well as your overall function, shoulder movement and scar tissue. We can assess for any mild lymphoedema or cording symptoms you may have.
  • Targeted Treatments including hands-on treatment and comprehensive advice and education to meet your specific needs.
  • Progressive Exercise Program to assist you with your specific exercise needs and goals as well as your general fitness, health and well-being.
  • Communication and Collaboration with your cancer care specialists, surgeon and General Practitioner to keep them informed of your progress and to support your care.

Where can I see my Physiotherapist?​

In Clinic

Online Video Appointments

Web & Mobile