While you are being treated for breast cancer, you may not have the energy you once did or be able to move your body as easily as before. You may also notice swelling in your arm or hand or chest area after the surgery. Swelling that occurs right after surgery is common and usually resolves with time. If the swelling persists, you may have a condition called lymphedema.

If you have any physical problems that start after surgery or during treatment, you should tell your doctor or nurse so that he or she can refer you to a rehabilitation professional. An occupational therapist is available at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center to educate and treat patients with lymphedema or limited mobility after surgery, and to discuss a safe return to daily activities.

Many people wonder when is the best time to resume their prior activities and exercise routines. Some people are more inclined to start moving right away, while others proceed more cautiously. Either way is fine. As you resume your daily activities, you should pay close attention to the affected side. If you notice pain, aching, heaviness, or discomfort, you should take a break. When the symptoms go away, you can resume the activity. If you continue to feel symptoms every time you do the activity, or if the symptoms become more frequent, you should talk with your doctor or nurse.

Our bodies are designed to move. Gentle exercise is a safe way to begin moving your body after surgery, and it can also help you feel more energetic during your treatment. After completing treatment, exercise can help you maintain your range of motion and strength so that you can return to your normal routine and participate in all the activities that give you pleasure.

Our Integrative Medicine Service offers a six-week course called, “Focus on Healing (Through Movement),” which includes therapeutic exercises to improve your range of motion and enhance your physical and psychological well-being. The Integrative Medicine Service offers other courses, including t’ai chi, yoga, and relaxation techniques, which may help breast cancer survivors manage some of the other potential effects of treatment such as pain and fatigue.