In this article we are going to explore how trained, targeted massage can offer healing to the post mastectomy client. I will be trailing one particular client. We’ll call her Jane.
Jane was diagnosed with right breast cancer. She was administered chemotherapy to shrink the tumor prior to surgery. Jane then had a bilateral mastectomy with some right auxillary lymph node removal. Then radiation therapy was given. I saw Jane on and off during the various stages of her treatment.
Now, as she awaits her breast reconstruction, I am seeing her weekly. This is the area of massage that I will be covering in this article.
Currently, Jane has breast expanders in. These will be removed and she will be given implants during her reconstruction. The expanders are used to stretch the skin after a mastectomy, being pumped with air every week or so until the skin is stretched enough to fit the appropriate implants into the breast for reconstruction. Currently, her plastic surgeon wants Jane to be doing self massage every day to help loosen the tightened skin over her expanders. I am seeing her weekly as well, and teaching her home massage. There is also some residual radiation burn on the skin of the bottom right breast. This will need to heal completely if she is to have the surgery in mid-March.
I work on Jane weekly for half hour sessions, beginning with the burn area (still reddened) using very gentle pressure with the pad of my fingers. I begin light, circular massage to help bring fresh blood to the area. The blood carries with it many nutrients and fresh oxygen, which will help heal the skin. Then I begin lightly massaging the skin all over each breast, again to stimulate blood flow. After warming the skin, I may coax some more warmth by rubbing only a slightly warm basalt stone over the entire chest/breast area. Then I begin light myofascial stretching of the skin. Always being mindful of any lymphedema risk and directing the lymph flow appropriately.
We’ll also work on the scar tissue left behind where the incisions were made from the mastectomy. The incision of the left breast will be reopened at the same site for the expander. There will be a new incision made at the bottom of the right breast. The reason for this is that the skin has now been damaged from radiation and the wound would have trouble healing so a new incision is made. I will use specific techniques to help release any scar tissue at the incision site and help deter it from growing any further. (We’ll explore the anatomy of scar tissue in another article).
I will be doing a follow up on Jane once she meets with her surgeon. Each person heals differently and at different rates.
Massage, it is now known, plays an important role in aiding healing of mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries. For more information on mastectomy massage or to schedule an appointment please call Integrative Wellness at The Spa @ Cornerstone @ 215-918-5950.
Melissa Faith-Baun, BCTMB, LMT, S4OM Preferred Provider