Mischelle Vining, PT, DPT, right, tests La'Chelle Rush's range of motion with a shoulder flexion exercise during one of her surgery follow-up visits. (Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center)

Mischelle Vining, PT, DPT, right, tests La’Chelle Rush’s range of motion with a shoulder flexion exercise during one of her surgery follow-up visits. (Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center)

A physical therapist has designed a physical therapy program to help catch complications after breast cancer surgery, and treat them before they become severe.

Mischelle Vining, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at the University Physicians Grants Ferry location, designed the program, which is now part of the multidisciplinary breast cancer clinic offered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute.

“Prehabilitation is fast becoming the standard of care for breast cancer patients throughout our country. It is a part of survivorship,” Vining says in a media release from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“Not only do we want our patients to be cured from cancer, but we also want them to have full use of their upper extremities during and after treatment. We are looking at the person as a whole,” she adds.

According to the release, the idea for the new program came about when Becky Weber, assistant director of rehabilitation services at the University Physicians Pavilion, approached Vining to say that there may be an opportunity to work with breast cancer patients.

“We noticed patients receiving therapy at the Pavilion who had been through breast cancer treatment presenting with shoulder and scar issues,” Vining says in the release. “We saw a need to start a program to prevent these complications from worsening.”

The program begins with the diagnosis of breast cancer, the release explains. Vining sees the patient prior to surgery to take baseline measurements of strength, range of motion, and arm girth. She also educates the patient and provides a written program for shoulder range of motion that patients follow at home after surgery.

Vining then schedules four more visits with the patient for the year following surgery, to ensure that the patient doesn’t develop impairments in their arms and shoulders later in the healing process.

If the patient develops complications, she is brought in for therapy weekly to address the problem before it becomes a more serious issue.

In the release, La’Chelle Rush, a breast cancer patient who was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ and elected to have a bilateral mastectomy, explains her experiences with the program.

Prior to her surgery, Rush met with Vining for her baseline measurements, at the request of her surgeon.

“[Mischelle] showed me how to do some exercises and stretches before my surgery. After my surgery, I could have kissed her. If I hadn’t known what stretches and exercises to do after surgery, my recovery would have been much more difficult,” rush states.

About a month after undergoing surgery, Rush experienced pain in her arm.

“Mischelle saw me and said, ‘I know exactly what this is. It’s your fascia,’” Rush says in the release.

Rush received therapy every Thursday until she was pain free. She was also provided with exercises to do at home. She’ll continue to be evaluated every 3 to 6 months for complications that may occur in the future, the release explains.

Barbara S. Craft, MD, director of the University Cancer Care breast team, says in the release that the initial visit to physical therapy prepares patients for what to expect before and after surgery.

“I think it’s good continuity of care for our patients,” Craft explains. “Seeing Mischelle before surgery helps patients with fear. It helps prepare them mentally and physically for surgery. It is definitely beneficial.”

[Source: University of Mississippi Medical Center]