How rehab helps your recovery - News & Updates • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

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How rehab helps your recovery

How rehab helps your recovery

Cancer rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy and lymphoedema therapy, comes with many benefits. It aims to:

  • Minimise short- and long-term side effects of breast cancer and treatment (e.g. pain, cording or peripheral neuropathy)
  • Regain strength, function and movement
  • Improve cancer- or treatment-related fatigue
  • Reclaim body confidence and control
  • Shift the focus from illness to wellness.

Rehab during your cancer treatment

Rehabilitation, particularly physiotherapy, is also important in the midst of treatment. After you’ve had surgery for breast cancer, a hospital physiotherapist should visit you before you’re discharged. They will give you exercises to do at home to regain your strength and restore your range of motion. Early intervention for side effects like lymphoedema therapy is also important. If you’ve just been diagnosed with lymphoedema, or you’re at high risk, it’s best to tackle it sooner rather than later.

You can also help boost your recovery and help alleviate side effects by staying active. Your physiotherapist can help create a programme to build up your strength and endurance, and help you return to exercise safely. Exercise has many benefits during and after breast cancer treatment, to look after your physical and mental health, and plays a significant role in preventing cancer from coming back.

What to expect from rehabilitation?

Treatments are personalised to your needs, no matter your age, fitness level or mobility. Your physiotherapist may use massage, manual stretching, or strength and flexibility exercises. They can create a programme for you to use at home to improve your strength and movement. The American Cancer Society has a useful guide to different exercises and what each exercise is used for, although you should speak to your medical team before trying any.

If you’re having therapy for lymphoedema, treatment will be based on the five ‘cornerstones’, which include light touch massage and compression bandages or garments. You can also watch our webinar, Life with lymphoedema, for strategies on managing this condition.

When choosing a physiotherapist or lymphoedema specialist, it’s important to choose a registered practitioner who specialises in cancer rehab. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ funds rehabilitation with certified PINC cancer rehab physiotherapists and registered lymphoedema therapists. You can apply for funding on our website, or contact our specialist breast nurses for free on 0800 226 8773 or breastnurse@bcf.org.nz and they can help you out.