Breast Cancer Recovery: Why am I Falling?

My sister is a brave and courageous breast cancer survivor. Her cancer journey has been long and hard, emotionally, mentally and physically draining. And once she had completed her initial treatment for cancer, she was optimistic that the road ahead would get easier. She wasn't prepared for the side-effects of chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Just as I will never forget the phone call when she told me she had breast cancer, I will also not forget the phone call when she called me tearful and afraid... she was falling... on numerous occasions and she was scared... she called me asking for my insight as a physical therapist as to why she was having so many falls... was it related to her cancer treatment?

FACT: Cancer Survivors Fall at 25-30% higher than the General Population

Systemic Cancer Treatment: Hormonal Therapy

In some types of cancers, hormones drive cancer cell growth. Hormone receptors on cancer cells indicate the cells' responsiveness to hormones. When the hormone binds to the receptor, it stimulates growth of the cancer cell. Examples of hormonally driven cancers may include breast, prostate, ovarian and uterine cancer. Hormone therapy is an example of adjuvant systemic therapy, reducing the risk of recurrence in cancers that have hormone receptors. Hormonal therapy prevents the sex hormone from impacting the cancer cell: it prevents binding to the cell and prevents the hormone from being made.

Hormone Therapy Side Effects

  • Weight gain
  • Hot Flashes
  • Joint Pain
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Tendinopathy
  • Bone mineral density loss and osteoporosis
  • Increased adiposity
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Alterned mental status
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

Increased Fall Risk

  • Cancer Survivors Fall at 25-30% higher than the General Population. This is due to:
  • Side effects of hormone therapy listed above
  • Polypharmacy (individual is on multiple medications; this increases risk for falls)
  • Neurotoxic side effects of chemotherapy- some agents used in chemotherapy (especially those used to treat breast and prostate cancer) are associated with injurious falls.
  • Bone density loss
  • Loss of lean muscle mass

How Physical Therapy can Help

 

Our Physical Therapist will perform a thorough assessment and will partner with the individual to develop a thorough and holistic exercise program that focuses on:

  • Assessment: General activity status, strength, joint mobility, weight & BMI, Mood state, DEXA T-Score
  • Education: Joint flexability, physical activity recommendations (cardiovascular and strength training), fall risk reduction
  • Interventions: Weight bearing exercise prescription, tendinopathy management, balance retraining, fall risk reduction

If you or someone you love is recovering from Breast Cancer treatment, contact us today to help them in the next phase of their recovery.

Recovery is more than surviving.

Recovery is THRIVING after treatment