Avatar universal

Sports after mastectomy

I've got a family history of breast cancer and recently have been diagnosed with being a carrier of a mutation on the BRCA1 gene. I am considering undergoing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.
I've thought it over carefully and have accepted losing my breasts from the aesthetic and emotional point of view (there's not much there anyway! :D), I have seen my grandmother go through breast cancer and am quite determined not to have to go through what she went (after 6 years she passed away).
This might sound quite silly, but my biggest concern is the loss of arm strength and long recovery period. I'm 22 and the captain of our collage volleyball team, I also swim competitively. :D
Although sport is only a hobby, it's a very important part of my life.
So, getting to the actual question, is it possible to return to full form after a bilateral mastectomy (I'm not bothering with any reconstruction :) ) and if it is, how long would it actually take me to be able to play volleyball and swim again?
Thanks for answering :D
2 Responses
25201 tn?1255580836
At your age and due to the fact that you don't have cancer so lymph nodes won't be disturbed I see no reason that you wouldn't be able to return to your normal sports activity fairly soon after you are completely healed. You should get some instruction for stretching exercises post-op as soon as your Surgeon permits which will help you recover your normal range of motion. Just be sure that you don't do anything before it is allowed or approved by the Surgeon or Physical Therapist (if you see one) so you don't delay the healing process. I can't say exactly how long before you can do your beloved activities since that will depend on how rapidly you heal but swimming is an excellent gentle stretching form of exercise. "Reach To Recovery" is an ORG. associated with the American Cancer Society and they have a CD of post-op exercises they provide for free so you might investigate that too. Best of Luck on this path that you have chosen .... "wisely I might add" Take care .....
Avatar universal
I too am very passionate about sport and physical fitness.  I opted not to have reconstructive surgery, following a mastectomy, due to the utilisation of muscle (and breast implants which I had serious concerns about).

I had lymph nodes removed so that may make a huge difference in terms of outcome.  I run and do a lot of strength based activity around the farm (digging, firewood, etc).  I find that I get some swelling in my arm/ shoulder which can be uncomfortable.  When this happens I elevate my arm and try gentle massage and do some basic lymph drainage exercises.
I have tended to have retained a lot of fluid post chemo so this may be influencing my outcome.  (I'm three months into six months of chemo.)

I have pretty good range of motion.  I would say that my strength has decreased somewhat.  This may improve in time as I feel well enough to engage in more strenuous activities.

I had my post-surgical drain in for nearly four weeks so that was a huge drain for me plus felt like quite a big set-back.  I did the exercises I was given by the hospital.  I did however break rules and did exercises above shoulder height before the drain was removed.  I don't think that this affected me.

I did Pink Pilates after my drain was removed which I would recommend.

I haven't been swimming post-surgery.  Initially I was waiting for my wound and drain site to heal now my red and white blood counts are low due to chemo and I don't want to risk infection.

I think that you go with what you are comfortable with.  You do what and when you can.

I found that surgery knocked me a bit.  I felt quite tired for a while afterwards.  I also felt like the surgeon had sewn me up too tight.

I think that without having lymph nodes removed that you should be fine with sport.  I'm pretty sure that I would be fine with swimming.  Spiking a ball in volleyball I think could be a little challenging but that is possibly just due to the swelling from chemo plus having lymph nodes removed.

Sorry.  Very long-winded and not to the point.  Hope it helps.
You'll know when the time is right to resume your sports.
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