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Breast Cancer Recovery

Contact Us

Occupational Therapy

600 Somerset Avenue
4th Floor
Windber, PA 15963

Phone: 814-467-3189
Fax: 814-467-3452

The Occupational Therapy Department at CSSMCW offers specialized services through the Lymphedema program, to provide education, support and rehabilitation for patients diagnosed with breast cancer amidst any stage of the treatment process.

What support is available after my breast cancer diagnosis?

A one-visit evaluation before breast cancer surgery is important, when possible, to obtain preoperative arm measurements, range of motion, activity level and cancer care plan. During this evaluation, patients can also receive instruction in safe post-surgical exercises and information about lifestyle, nutrition, and chemotherapy/radiation therapy side effects.

What therapy services are available after my breast surgery?

After surgery, an occupational therapist will evaluate and assess post-operative symptoms and the need for potential treatment. Patients may initiate the Breast Cancer Recovery Program and/or Complex Lymphatic Therapy Program based on the evaluation.

What is the Breast Cancer Recovery Program?

Recovery is not just about survival – it is also about quality of life. An occupational therapist develops an individual plan based on the patient’s specific needs to support the healing process. This program is appropriate for ALL post-operative patients and is HIGHLY ADVISED for patients who have had more than 5 lymph nodes removed, mastectomy and tissue expander/reconstruction. The individualized program may include limb monitoring, soft tissue and scar mobilization, progressive range of motion, techniques to address pain, progressive weight training program, home exercise program, and lymphedema precautions.

What is lymphedema and the therapy to treat it?

Lymphedema following breast cancer surgery is an abnormal buildup of lymphatic fluid in the breast or torso, resulting in chronic, progressive swelling. Lymphedema Therapy is a program offered through CSSMCW’s Occupational Therapy Department. An occupational therapist with advanced training and certification in lymphedema establishes a plan of care using the methods of Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT). Goals of treatment include improvements in swelling, pain, skin abnormalities, mobility and daily functions.

How do I recognize lymphedema?

Secondary, or acquired, lymphedema can develop as a result of cancer surgery and related treatments. Lymphedema can develop immediately after surgery or be diagnosed weeks, months and even years later. Additionally, when lymph nodes are removed, there is always a risk of developing lymphedema. If you suspect any of the symptoms listed below, inform your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment improve both the current condition and your future health.

Symptoms may include:

  • Visible persistent swelling
  • A full, heavy, or achy sensation in arm or torso
  • Skin tightness or pain
  • Decreased flexibility in specific joints
  • Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
  • Tight-fitting bracelet, watch, or ring that was not tight before