Saving shoulder function after breast cancer surgery

Life & Health

45-year-old Tina Harrison has had a lot of experience with cancer over the past five years.

Tina Harrison said, “My sister had breast cancer, I went through everything with her down in Florida. My mom had ovarian cancer. My grandmother had breast cancer. Came back from my sister’s cancer surgery and went to my doctor.”

Tina chose to have a preventive double mastectomy, that’s when doctors found her cancer. Five years later, she still feels the effects of surgery.

Tina Harrison said, “Stiffness, yes. Pain, yes. It was all there.”

Researchers are studying long-term shoulder function in breast cancer survivors. Women who seem to lose the most function have undergone a procedure called a lat flap reconstruction.

David Lipps, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Movement Science, University of Michigan School of Kinesiology said, “They basically take muscle off the back, move it to the chest wall and use that to house the permanent implant.”

Doctoral student Josh Leonardis motivates Tina to push against the robotic device, measuring how the muscle reacts.

Tina did not have a lat flap reconstruction but still has shoulder pain. Lipps says the goal is to identify which patients would benefit from earlier physical therapy.

Doctor Lipps said, “for functional tasks like lifting a bag of groceries off the ground or moving your arm around back to hook a bra.”
Movements that can restore the quality of life after cancer.

David Lipps says he was finishing his training in 2013 when his mother, Marsha, was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed radiation.

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