Seven months after treatment the breast cancer was gone, but the side effects of radiation still remained for Lisa Cvijanovich.
She had a rare situation from the radiation that caused nerves and muscles in her arm, chest and shoulder to tighten up, and she had lost some range of motion because of it. With all the doctors Cvijanovich was seeing, none of them mentioned physical therapy as an option.
"That kind of shocked me," Cvijanovich said. "I just got to thinking about it and asked another patient about it."
That other patient referred her to Renata Beaman of Spooner Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee Foothills.
Beaman is a physical therapist, an orthopedic physical therapist, and a lymphedema therapist. Over the years, she has designed a special program that focuses and treats breast cancer patients, survivors and issues that are unique to them.
"Women get treatment for breast cancer, and they get surgery, and they have radiation, and they have chemo therapy, and then it's like, ‘OK, cancer's gone, see ya,'" Beaman said. "But then the woman can't raise her arm. I just thought, why isn't this being addressed? I decided to bridge the gap."
Beaman's program is new to the medical world, which is the reason she says Cvijanovich probably didn't hear about it before. Beaman works with doctors, surgeons, radiation oncologists and plastic surgeons to educate women with breast cancer about some side effects they should be aware of and how to treat them.
Many women with breast cancer become more susceptible to lymphedema, which can cause swelling in the chest and arms if it's not treated right away. Lymphedema can happen even years after surgery and there is no cure, but Beaman says it is completely preventable. Some women come to her before surgery so that she can take measurements and monitor what's normal. Other women come to her after it has already set in, and so they go through months of wrapping the area to reduce the swelling and then wear a sleeve afterward to keep it that way.
For some, like Cvijanovich, they just want their arm strength back. For her treatment, Beaman gives a massage to try to loosen the muscles back up in her arm and shoulder.
"Anyone who has had breast cancer, and any treatment for it, I would recommend finding a physical therapist who has had training in breast cancer and lymphedema," Cvijanovich said. "My first appointment, even if that was all I had come for, I would have learned a lot about helping myself prevent lymphedema."
Beaman says some women only need one appointment, just for educational reasons. Others need more drawn out help to get them back to their pre-treatment abilities.
"It's just really important to get women back to their regular way of life, which is why I do what I do," Beaman said. "Really, the biggest thing is education. I have to tell doctors to tell patients that they can get back to normal. I work with only a handful of doctors and I am busy. It's scary to think how many women could benefit from even one visit. There are thousands and thousands of women in the Phoenix area who don't know they can get that full range of motion back."
Beaman says there are other lymphedema therapists in the Valley. Her specialty is focusing on breast cancer patients. She has seen patients of all ages from mid-20's to early 90's.
For more information on the breast cancer therapy, visit spoonerphysicaltherapy.com or call the Ahwatukee office at (480) 706-1199.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or firstname.lastname@example.org