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Buddy Check 3: Mercy physical therapists discuss treatments for breast cancer survivors

Published: Oct. 3, 2020 at 6:39 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Sandy Mincks is a breast cancer survivor. In the last three years, she’s had chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy, even reconstruction.

But now Sandy’s focused on getting back to life before breast cancer.

Sandy says she was doing really good there for awhile, but physical therapists say it’s common for patients, like Sandy to be so focused on surviving cancer. They’re willing to just live with the side-effects of what it took to save them.

According to Jenna Smith, a physical therapist for Mercy Hospital, “We have a lot of patients who feel like my cancer is gone that’s taken care of. This is just kinda my new normal now. I don’t reach over my head anymore to wash my hair because just doesn’t do it. You shouldn’t have that new normal., we can get you back to what’s actually normal for you.”

And these physical therapists have been trained in specific ways to help breast cancer patients.

Taryn Arens, another physical therapist for Mercy Hospital, said, "We see a lot of chest tightness and scarring, limited mobility, not able to reach above their head or put their bra on. Typical everyday activities you want to do.”

Sandy was still in treatment for breast cancer when she had her first problem with mobility. That was almost two years ago. Sandy said radiation recommended that she get physical therapy because her chest and arm areas were so tight, and she didn’t have a lot of movement in her arm.

After a month of therapy, that included a lot of stretching and scraping of the scar tissue with specialized instruments like these, Sandy said she regained a lot of mobility. But fast forward to now in her third year of recovery, new pain started to surface, once again most likely from the scar tissue that comes with radiation and surgeries.

Sandy said, “I did have a lot of soreness in my chest which it has helped tremendously behind and underneath my arm.”

A lesson Sandy has learned first hand, you don’t have to live with the post treatment pain. Physical therapists want to spread that message. That they can help, well after breast cancer treatments have ended.

Smith says “these patients are dealing with it for years. Definitely something we can assist with and make them feel better.”

You can get a referral to see a physical therapist through your own physician.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Buddy Check 3 program. This is a joint project with KY3, Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, and Mercy and Cox Hospitals. You’ll get an introductory packet with more information on breast care health.

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