Physical limitations after breast reconstruction

Last Modified: April 23, 2009

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Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I teach fitness classes and am trying to find information on exercising after breast reconstruction due to cancer.  


Lora Packel MS, PT, Coordinator of Cancer Therapy Services for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Women with breast reconstruction may have some physical limitations depending on the type and extent of their surgery. It is important for any patient to discuss their physical limitations with their plastic surgeon before starting an exercise program. Exercise can harm the reconstruction site if begun too early and too aggressively.

Women who undergo a transverse rectus abdominus myocutaneous (TRAM) reconstruction are often limited for the first three months after surgery. I would recommend that patients see a physical therapist that specializes in women's health and oncology rehabilitation to prescribe a safe program that is appropriate for the patient's stage of recovery.

It is also important to consider the stage of the persons disease, whether it has spread to bone and what treatments they are presently undergoing. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy will influence the type of exercise the patient can safely tolerate and should be prescribed by a health care professional that understands their relationship to exercise tolerance. For more information, I would recommend reading "Essential Exercises for Breast Cancer Survivors" written by Halverstadt and Leonard.

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