Breast cancer statistics are staggering.
However, as awareness grows, so does early detection, improved treatment, and better understanding of the many facets of care necessary for optimal outcomes.
Breast cancer treatment, the surgeries, chemotherapy, and/or radiation all result in significant tightening of the fascia of the neck, shoulder and chest wall. Numerous medical studies are recognizing that many life saving cancer treatments result in the loss of the soft tissue’s ability to shear and glide.
The outcome is more scarring, larger adhesions, and increased fascial spider webbing throughout the body.
This fascial webbing can sometimes become visible in the form of cording or banding in the area of surgical sites. This tightening down of the fascia can impede blood flow, resulting in less oxygen being delivered to healing tissues as well as fewer toxins being removed from these areas. Fibrous fascia impedes the lymphatic flow which becomes a significant concern for post surgical breast cancer patients.
As fascia tightens, it can potentially impede normal joint mechanics of the shoulder, neck, and rib cage. The result can be pain, loss of motion, decreased energy, or difficulty taking a deep breath.
The tissues most at risk for developing fascial restrictions are areas where the breast tissue and/or lymphatic tissue was resected, surgical incisions, and drain sites. Drain sites especially can be problematic secondary to the way they are allowed to heal. Typically the tightness is experienced in the axilla and upper arm, the lateral chest wall, and posteriorly over the teres major.
Breast cancer treatment shouldn’t end with the interventions to treat the cancer. It needs to address these soft tissue concerns as well to allow return to optimal health. Myofascial release can be a valuable tool in this regard.
These ideas are not new. But sadly, many women are not being advised to balance their soft tissue following surgery. Once the cancer treatment is complete, they are left to their own devices to tackle the problems of fascial tightness. So, if you or someone you know has been down this road, consider adding myofascial work into your health care plan. Balance the soft tissue, decompress the joints, alleviate the residual pain and restore your energy.