Garth Graebe
Megan Burkart

Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is very difficult on both the body and the mind. The stress of being diagnosed with cancer and treatment methods, like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, may leave the body weakened, scarred, and tired. The mind wants to resume life as it was before diagnosis. WVU Cancer Institute rehabilitation specialists Megan Burkart, DPT, and Garth Graebe, MOT, explain how our experts can assist you – from diagnosis to breast reconstruction – and address common complications of breast cancer treatment.

1. We’ll reduce your pain, not add to it.
Side effects of radiation and chemotherapy can be very challenging for the body, and it takes a specialized skillset to develop a rehabilitation plan for your specific needs. Our specialists are physical therapists and occupational therapists with advanced training in assisting patients with cancer. Gentleness is our specialty, and our first priority is to reduce your pain – not add to it. We’ll develop an individualized treatment plan to build your strength and endurance so that you can resume your most important roles in life.

2. Know your pain in order to manage it.
Understanding your pain and learning how to cope with it can help you get back to the life you desire. Cancer rehabilitation specialists can teach you relaxation techniques, coping skills, and ways to simplify your daily tasks to help manage your pain or other problems that are interfering with your ability to live your best.

3. You don’t have to walk on pins and needles.
Chemotherapy may leave you with tingling or numbness in your hands and feet that can make daily activities more difficult. You may experience difficulty using your fingers to pick up or hold things, button your shirt, or write. Tingling in your feet may cause balance problems, and you may notice that you are tripping or stumbling more when trying to walk. These symptoms may resolve slowly over time, but they can also linger and interfere with your life. Cancer rehab can help you manage these symptoms to make daily tasks easier and decrease your risk for injury.

4. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
There are many reasons why you may lose range of motion in your arm or shoulder, including undergoing a surgical procedure for breast cancer and complications from chemotherapy and radiation. Reduced ability to move your arms and shoulders can impact your daily activities, like styling your hair, washing, or getting dressed. It’s very important that we reduce your pain and get your arm or shoulder moving, as we want to ensure further deterioration does not occur. Performing exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles could be your ticket to reduced pain and easy overhead movement.

5. It’s okay to be tired of being tired.
You may find that common activities, such as dressing or simple housework, are now more difficult, take longer, or leave you wiped out. You may experience anxiety or have trouble doing the things you once enjoyed. Fatigue is one of the most common complaints throughout breast cancer treatment and into survivorship. Cancer rehab can help you learn ways to conserve energy, modify how you complete tasks, organize your activities, and manage fatigue so that you can accomplish more and feel better.

6. The fog will lift.
Cancer treatment may cause you to have difficulty thinking clearly. You may experience changes in your ability to concentrate, focus, and remember things. These changes may affect your ability to work, drive a car, or manage your life. Cancer rehab can help you address these difficulties by providing strategies to organize your tasks and restore balance to your daily life.

7. You will have a new normal.
After being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, life is definitely different. Whatever is important to you is important to us, so we encourage you to dream. Cancer rehab can help you get back to what matters to you, such as playing with your children or grandchildren, walking a 5K, or managing your pain.

If you live outside of the Morgantown area, WVU Cancer Institute rehabilitation specialists can still be of service to you. We can connect you with a local physical or occupational therapist to provide your treatment and coordinate your care.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE