Now that genetic testing is more reasonable than ten years ago, I am a bit in shock that there is funded research on when a woman should be advised to be tested for BRCA. It is basic breast 101 if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer you should consider being tested for BRCA. What I find incomprehensible is the fact that as women we are never asked about these tests. We go to the gynecologist every year (if we have access) and they don't talk about BRCA or ovarian cancer. I go to the dermatologist and they have never mentioned the link with skin cancer and melanoma. The eye doctor looked at me like I had two heads when I asked her to check for eye melanoma because of BRCA. When my father went for prostate cancer follow-up, they flat out told him they don't recommend BRCA testing at the time of prostate cancer diagnosis. So basically if you have a family history of breast, ovarian, melanoma, Fallopian tube, pancreatic or prostate cancer, you should demand the BRCA test so that you can be proactive with detection. I.E, you don't need to read this article unless you want to get your undies in a bunch like me (the link is here).
Yoga and Osteoporosis
Survivors who are taking Tamoxifen or Letrozole after finishing breast cancer treatment face a new battle of side effects from pharmaceuticals including osteoporosis. The good news is that just 12 minutes a day of yoga is proven to reverse osteoporosis! 227 women who followed through with a 12 minute yoga regimen everyday showed improved bone density of the spine and femur ( research link is here). Additionally, participants showed “better internal support of their bones, which is not measured by a bone density scan but is important to resisting fractures,”
The poses which are held for 30 seconds are: tree, triangle, warrior II, side-angle, twisted triangle, locust, bridge, supine hand-to-foot I, supine hand-to-foot II, straight-legged twist, bent-knee twist and corpse pose.
The other benefit of yoga is range of motion, muscle strength, balance and stress reduction. During chemotherapy I often found myself awake at strange hours. I would push myself to do yoga and I always felt better. Now that I am missing my breast and 21 lymph nodes, it is even more important to move my arm and keep things from stagnating. About 3 weeks post lymph dissection, I gradually started doing yoga and by the fifth week I was able to go to my first 1 hour yoga class. As soon as I had the "stamp of approval" to do yoga from my surgeon, I started. It was hard and I had to push through, but a huge milestone to my recovery. Throughout radiation I did yoga, and I did not lose any range of motion. The more movement, the less likely I am to develop scar tissue and Lymphoedema.
I am looking into getting certified as a yoga instructor..specifically to help breast cancer survivors. The struggle is real and getting back on the mat and refocusing on our rebirth can be life changing.
To access the 12 poses there is a good youtube video here.
Cording after surgery
After having surgery for breast cancer, such as a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection women often have a side effect called "cording" or ""axillary web syndrome." Researchers are still trying to figure out what cording is, but they think it is caused by a combination of the trauma of having surgery plus the sentinel fluid solidifying and producing web like or rope like structures under the arm and extending down to the elbow. If you look under your arm and push your skin back it can look like guitar strings (see video). It feels like scar tissue when you touch it and when you attempt to stretch it can feel like lightening bolts or like you are ripping apart scar tissue - it can be painful. The most difficult part is that it restricts your range of motion.
Up to 72% of women report cording after breast cancer surgery, and are left with restricted range of motion and decreased mobility that can lead to problems such as frozen shoulder, tendonitis, etc. Despite the pain, the best way to get rid of cording is through exercise, stretching and physical therapy on the cords. After surgery, I developed cording within 5 days post-op and I couldn't lift my arm more than 30 degrees. After one treatment with a physical therapist at a lymphedema clinic, I was able to lift my arm 70 degrees. Considering the fact that many women are denied physical therapy after surgery, I thought I would post a video on how to manage cording from my personal lymphedema session. I use this technique by myself now, and often will get into a yoga pose first and when I feel there is a cord, I use the "S" technique to loosen the cord. I am 3 weeks post-operative and my range of motion is 70% back. Feel free to try this technique and get your groove back!