Healing touch helping breast cancer survivors

Most women will tell you they hold their breath when they do their monthly self breast exam, or get a yearly mammogram.

The thought of being told you have breast cancer is terrifying, and while early diagnosis can lead to a cure, there are still side affects women face after treatment.

In a special Medical Moment, Maureen tells us about therapy under study here in Michiana that is helping women with pain they don't often talk about.

Women who survive breast cancer will tell you completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting.

They're relieved, but often worry about cancer coming back; and there are side affects they must face that can mean more surgery.

Now the Centre P.C. is studying a protocol they think will save a lot of women from going back under the knife.

Six years ago, Tracy Reed-Case, who works at Memorial Hospital as a massage therapist for breast cancer patients, was herself faced with losing not one, but both breasts.

"I was 45-years-old and my breast cancer was found through a routine screening," said Tracy. "I had a unique kind of cancer that was what they called 'multifocal.'"

Her cancer was hard to image, and after her first mastectomy, Tracy was told tests showed she still had cancer.

"That's why I chose to take the other one off," said Tracy.

47-year-old Sharon Maddux of Elkhart says a neighbor forced her to get a mammogram, even though she was going to cancel because of mounting medical bills from her daughter's illness.

"My insurance wasn't going to pay for my mammogram so I was going to cancel the appointment," said Sharon. "And I went and they found it."

After surgery, plastic surgeons and surgical oncologists can do immediate reconstruction using a saline or silicone gel-filled implant, or put in a tissue expander and gradually fill the breast. Sharon decided to go with the expanders; Tracy got implants.

Dr. Ronald Downs performs a lot of reconstructive surgery and says the psychological benefits are important, but there are side effects with reconstructive surgery.

"There's a whole gamut of things these women are facing. They're facing from the external standpoint, the trauma of the surgery," said Dr. Downs. "All of these surgical approaches leave behind scar tissue and potential problems."

And that's where relief comes in for Tracy with the massage therapy protocol under study at the Centre.

Using tools developed by a tool and dye maker for what's called the Graston Technique, Ball State first researched Graston for sports medicine. Doctors and therapists at the Centre are finding it works to break down scar tissue in the breasts.

"We know that massage is good for blood supply, we know it's good for scar tissue, so if we can employ massage techniques in and around the reconstructive area, or even the donor site, we can expedite healing," said Dr. Downs.

Therapist Barb Ditmer says the tools make all the difference.

"We have found that if we perform massage manually using the tools it causes microtrauma, which helps break down and restructure the tissue," said Barb.

For Tracy, who thought she was facing another surgery, the Graston Therapy has meant all the difference in the world.

"You would think it would hurt, but it doesn't," said Tracy. "It feels good like your body needs it.

Dr. Downs believes the technique is working. He says, "they're getting tremendous relief from this.".

Sharon hasn't had to face issues with scar tissue like Tracy has yet, and maybe won't. So in the meantime she's facing her cancer diagnosis with humor.

"That's a bonus -- I get two new perky breasts," joked Sharon.

We want you to save the date to help women like Tracy and Sharon for the second annual Susan G. Komen Northern Indiana Race for the Cure.

WNDU is proud to be your premiere media sponsor for this event and Maureen is the honorary chair. The Run/Walk is Saturday, May 1st in downtown Mishawaka.

Registration is 6:30 a.m. and the Run/Walk begins at 9. If you want to register online, we have a link on the Big Red Bar.

As far as the Graston protocol at the Centre P.C., Dr. Downs says they will be using it on other patients.

The technique is also being used by clinicians in other parts of the country. To learn more about Graston, check out their website by clicking here.


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