A Physical Therapist's Touch After Mastectomy

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Angelina Jolie's courage to undergo breast cancer preventive double mastectomy creates headlines and the opportunity for greater awareness on the issue. Doctors of Physical Therapy help patients regain function and proper movement after the mastectomy -From Hands-On News.

Patient during physical therapy examination

It is the Physical Therapist's duty to restore movement and function, but also to show empathy and understanding during this challenging time in the patients' lives.

Over 230,000 women are diagnosed every year with invasive breast cancer as reported by the American Cancer Society. Mammograms, clinical breast exams and self-breast exams are some of the methods for early detection. In recent years, the discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2 human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressor genes have created a breakthrough in early detection and effective treatment for breast cancer. This is because mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Genetic tests are available to check for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. This is the kind of test that actress Angelina Jolie received and tested positive for. Options available after a positive diagnosis include unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. As reported to Hands-On News by Dr George Tsioulias, Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgical Oncologist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, "The modern breast cancer surgery continues to have as a prime goal the cure from cancer, but also places emphasis on the quality of life, favoring breast-sparing surgery and sentinel lymph node biopsy to remove the cancer and stage the patient in a minimally invasive way."

Angelina Jolie recently announced that with her doctor's advice, has elected to receive a double mastectomy. "There are several physical challenges following a mastectomy," says Dr. Dimitrios Kostopoulos, Co-Founder of Hands-On Care Physical Therapy of Astoria, NY. "These challenges may include tightness around the surgical area, formation of scar tissue, numbness and nerve sensitivity of the skin, limitation in the range of motion of the shoulders, and sometimes lymphedema," Dr. Kostopoulos continues.

Thousands of post-mastectomy patients receive physical therapy services each year, and the American Physical Therapy Association has created a special oncology section that enhances professional development of therapists who specialize in the area of oncology physical therapy.

Dr. Simone McDougald, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Clinical Director of Hands-On Care Physical Therapy told Hands-On News that "We must show great sensitivity towards post-mastectomy patients. It is the Physical Therapist's duty to restore movement and function, but also to show empathy and understanding during this challenging time in the patients' lives."

Hands-On Care Physical Therapy with offices in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn provides physical therapy services for all types of problems, including post-mastectomy patients.

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