In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this post is dedicated to those women who have been or are being treated for breast cancer. I want these brave women to know that there is help available for some of the secondary issues they may be dealing with due to breast cancer treatment.
So why would someone being
treated for breast cancer need to see a pelvic floor physical therapist?
Pain, dryness and irritation of the vagina, along with the stress that comes
along with undergoing cancer treatment, can lead to dyspareunia (AKA - painful
intercourse) and vaginismus (involuntary tightening of pelvic floor muscles).
Weakness of the pelvic floor muscles due to treatment can lead to urinary or
fecal leakage. These are some pretty major issues to have to deal with while
undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The good news is that seeing a pelvic
floor physical therapist can help.
A physical therapist that specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction can
customize a treatment to address whatever issues you may be having due to
cancer treatment. If you are having problems with urinary or fecal
incontinence, a PT can instruct you in a rehabilitation program to strengthen
your pelvic floor muscles and improve your bowel / bladder control and
If your problem is pelvic
pain, a PT can perform manual treatment to release tense pelvic muscles and
release trigger points, which are hypersensitive areas in muscle that can
contribute to pain. A PT will also instruct you in relaxation techniques and
help you to improve your conscious control over your pelvic floor muscles.
Therapy may also include education on care for vaginal tissue, appropriate
types of lubrication and sexual positioning to decrease discomfort with
Another side effect of breast cancer treatment, including chemo and
radiation, can be decreased libido. This can be a result of fatigue due to
treatment, changes in body image, pain with intercourse, and hormonal changes.
A PT can instruct you in an appropriate and gentle exercise program as well as
energy conservation techniques to decrease fatigue. They can use other
alternative methods to increase your libido as well. A PT may also be able to
refer you to a sex therapist that can be helpful in assisting with regaining
intimacy during and after treatment.
If you are being treated for breast cancer and experiencing any of these
issues, the first step to regaining control of your body is talking to your
doctor and finding out if pelvic floor physical therapy may benefit you. Even
though you are going through a lot during this time, there is no reason that
you should have to suffer with these secondary issues. These problems can
negatively affect your self esteem and have serious effects on your quality of
life, so please don't suffer in silence!
A special thanks to Angela Wicker-Ramos, MPT, CLT, LANA, my co-worker and
friend, for her expertise in this area!