Cancer Truth Note: #63
Lack of strength or decreased ability to use one or both arms after breast cancer surgery may be an indication you have Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema (BCRL).
One of the biggest challenges breast cancer survivors may face is restoring full function and mobility to the arm on the side where you had cancer. This can happen for many reasons. There is an instinct to protect the area, so the arm may not be used as often and for the same tasks as you used it before. You may not have fully recovered after surgery. This is always fixable. If it has been some time since treatment ended you may need some help.
However, the culprit may also be BCRL. Even a low grade or subclinical BCRL can make it difficult to move your arm or cause you to have a decrease in strength. Research has shown that patients with early stage or subclinical lymphedema, where there is no visible swelling often report other symptoms that may be associated with surgery or not fully rehabilitating after treatment. This is one of the gaps in the survivorship continuum of care. Survivors are not being assessed for breast cancer related lymphedema (BCRL) because doctors are not connecting the symptom dots when there is no visible swelling.
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