Back in February, 2016, I had written an article on a patient I call “Jane”. Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, 2015. She had chemotherapy to shrink the tumor in her right breast, bilateral mastectomy in July, 2015 with expanders inserted in each breast. This was followed by radiation therapy. Jane finished her radiation on November 18, 2015. Her goal was to have breast reconstruction surgery within 4 months of finishing radiation.
As I left off, I was working with Jane (with her surgeons permission) using various massage techniques to help alleviate post-surgical scar tissue, discomfort and restriction to the upper body. I also worked to bring blood flow to the breast tissue and skin through massage to increase healing to the radiated skin and scar tissue. Jane’s massage sessions were once a week for a half hour, with her doing self-massage at home. Initially the surgeon did not think the radiated skin would be ready but on Mach 18, 2016, Jane had her reconstruction surgery!!! Her surgeon was pleasantly surprised at Jane’s progress with the massage.
Jane is now 8 weeks post-surgery and doing great! The radiated breast was cut with a fresh incision at the base of the breast and the non-radiated breast was re-opened at the original incision for reconstruction. I began seeing Jane 4 weeks ago and with the encouragement of her Doctor and continue working with the skin and scar tissue. Using only a level 1 – 2 pressure on the Walton Scale of Massage Pressure, I lightly work the fresh scars. These are classified as immature scars. Mature scars are formed 3 – 18 months post-surgery and a more vigorous approach is taken for scar tissue reduction at this stage.
First I warm up the skin on the breast and chest with light circular massage. Then I begin to work the scars. Circular massage, cross fiber massage and gentle effleurage are all used. I also try to help ease the tightness experienced when raising Jane’s arms over her head. This is a common complaint after reconstruction surgery. Massage is used to help bring mobility back to this area. Our goal will be to continue to bring fresh blood to the breast and chest area and reduce scar tissue and increase mobility of skin and joints.
Jane’s current biggest complaint is arm weakness and feeling out of shape. She was a former Boston Marathon runner. Post reconstruction surgery, you are only permitted to use your arms minimally so the breasts are kept stable. Now that she is 8 weeks post-op, she has been given the “go ahead” to slowly begin exercising again. I asked Jane what she felt were the three most important things she did that contributed to her healing and successful first time breast reconstruction surgery. Here they are:
#1: Using “Herbal Touch” ointment. I recommended this to her prior to radiation. It is an ointment manufactured specifically for radiation burn. Cheryl Chapman, RN, Holistic Nurse Practitioner and Board Certified Massage Therapist and Mastectomy/Oncology Massage Instructor, originally devised this ointment and it is now manufactured and used in area hospitals.
#3: Walked every day
I am continuing to follow Jane weekly for now. We continue to work on scar tissue, blood circulation to the skin and now helping ease newly sore muscles from her recent work-outs. Something I noticed in the past couple sessions is that Jane is finally totally “letting go” on the massage table. The mountain has been climbed, surgery is over and it’s time for healing, finding balance and releasing all those emotions held in her body.
Congratulations Jane and Thank You for allowing me to take this walk with you!!!
For questions please contact Melissa Baun, BCTMB, LMT, S4OM Preferred Provider
@ Integrative Wellness at The Spa At Cornerstone