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Breast Cancer and Reconstructive Surgery

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My wife had a double mastectomy 2 years ago as a result of her breast cancer diagnosis. 

She opted for reconstructive surgery using implants, which go under the muscle.

Since the surgery my wife has lost a significant amount of her pushing power. In addition, she is concerned that working that area too hard will dislodge one or both implants. 

Just looking for some guidance from someone who has knowledge or experience with this situation. 

Thank you.

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This is out of my area of expertise—however, we have had a number of students who have had the same reconstructive surgery, and all have benefitted from the lying passive back bend (you can find a number of these on our YouTube channel if you search there on passive back bend). The arm opening movements feel excellent, we are told.

With respect to resistance training and possible dislodgement of the implants: this is a question your wife could ask of the surgeon, or his/her staff. A question might be whether the implants are held in place in some way, and whether there is a risk of them being displaced. If further information comes to hand, can you please add that here. I hope others may comment too.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Kit,

Thanks for replying. We did check with the surgeon who basically said don't worry about it. 

But we still can't help worrying about it. I'll work with my wife on the passive back bend for sure. 

For reference, here is the article that has us questioning our surgeon's advice:  https://www.self.com/story/mastectomy-workout

And yes, if there's anyone else out there in StretchTherapyland that has experience with this I would love to hear about it. 🙂

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@Jason: If your surgeon also "cut the two main pectoralis major nerves (the medial and lateral pectoral nerves) so that they cannot cause a forceful muscle contraction. The denervation gives a more natural appearance and prevents the implant from being consistently compressed and eventually displaced or distorted by the contraction of the overlying muscle", as the article you link to describes, then push-ups will need to be done using anterior deltoid, middle deltoid, and triceps. Many people do them this way by choice (I am one of these). Only your wife's direct experience of trying them this way will tell her whether this approach will be useful to her, and whether it will not lead to the kind of problems the article points to. 

The technique is simple: full plank (off the knees to start, reducing lever lengths), use the lats to pull the shoulders strongly away from the ears (so flex lats to pull shoulders to hips), hands under shoulders, then (maintaining the lat tension), let the arms bend while trying to keep the elbows as close to your sides as possible. The action in the arms and shoulders will be very similar to a close grip benchpress – upper arms and forearms will touch the body, and there will be almost no pec involvement at all. As well, she can direct her awareness to only using the arms, as much as possible (in the same way as you can use back muscles or arm muscles mainly to do pull-ups and chin-ups. In the beginning, negatives only (do only the lowering phase; roll over and get back into the plank start position). In time, when strong enough ad when trying to come out of the bottom position, re-flex the lats to keep the shoulders pulled down before even thinking about coming up. This way, all, or the majority of, the effort will be in the deltoids and triceps (and lats). Regardless of your wife's history, this is the safest way to do push-ups in any case. 

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