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Shoulder dysfunction after treatment

GRZ7279 Member Posts: 30

Hello all,

I finished my last radiation treatment on April 27 and promptly dislocated my right shoulder (the side where I had my mastectomy and radiation) in the hospital parking lot when a car backed up and tapped my hip (seriously didn't hit hard enough to justify the word hit). At first I seemed to be recovering well, but after about 2 months I've started going backwards. I'm in constant pain and my range of motion is becoming severely limited. My orthopedic doctor says I'm developing frozen shoulder, which my oncologist says is super-common after breast cancer treatment. My internet research seems to indicate that hormonal imbalances and shoulder injuries are two of the biggest risk factors for frozen shoulder. Obviously, the hormone therapy has to continue regardless of its negative effect on my shoulder.

So... has anyone else out there dealt with shoulder problems post-treatment? Any tips for how to approach it? I have a PT, but I'm debating trying to switch to an oncology PT because I feel like this one was just doing standard stuff for a dislocation without taking into account the additional risks the treatments create. I'm also going to try an orthopedic massage therapist and accupuncture. My orthopedic doctor suggested a cortisone shot, but those have some risks so I'm not sure whether that would help or hurt. Mostly, I keep hearing a lot of "it just takes time," which is super-frustrating because I have just about had it with doctors at this point. After a year of surgery, chemo, and radiation, I'm just so ready to be done.


  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited August 2022

    I am anxious to hear any replies, a friend of mine is suffering from this condition she blames the radiation but she is also taking hormone therapy not sure if it is tamoxifen. She loves to ski and bike ride but she hasn't been able to due to her shoulder.

  • rah2464
    rah2464 Member Posts: 1,192
    edited August 2022

    Grz7279 I would agree with getting to an massage therapist that understands the impacts of cancer and treatment. I would also coordinate this treatment with your ortho along with possibly your plastic surgeon because there may be scar tissue in there adding to the mix of your frozen shoulder.

    If you have access to it, gentle yoga is a great practice which can help unlock that area.

    I developed a lot of scar tissue with my original surgery and had limited range of motion on my cancer side shoulder for a long time. Took a lot of massage, yoga, and finally a revision surgery to loosen it all up to where I would say I am 95% to my non cancer side. Sorry you are having to go thru this, I hope you get a plan in place that gives you some progress.

  • melbo
    melbo Member Posts: 266
    edited August 2022

    I developed a frozen shoulder after treatment — although I didn’t have hormonal treatment so mine was just from surgery and radiation. I went to regular physical therapy for a few sessions to figure out which stretches I needed to be doing and incorporated them into my routine, plus I started some basic strength training.

    I still have somewhat limited range of motion and some days are worse than others — but lots of stretching has helped quite a lot and now I can at least reach behind my back again most days and I often go whole days without thinking about it too much.

    It sucks that it’s one more thing on top of everything else, but stretching — the right way —really does help.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,219
    edited August 2022

    Hi all,

    Just popping in to share this podcast on Managing Shoulder Issues After Breast Cancer Treatment in case it is helpful to you!

    --The Mods

  • serendipity09
    serendipity09 Member Posts: 769
    edited August 2022

    I have been struggling with shoulder issues since Nov. 2020, 2 months after my BMX with immediate reconstruction (TE's). I did PT and message therapy for a year and a half and continue daily stretches and water exercises. I also had my exchange to implants in July 2021 and then radiation in Sept/Oct 2021 due to recurrence. Things have gotten significantly worse. My ortho did try and manipulate my shoulders while I was under general anesthesia, but it has not helped much, nor was he able to fully manipulate my shoulders. I am getting cortisone shots every 3/4 months for now as I'm scheduled to have my implants removed in two weeks (doing a DIEP). My ortho and PS both think the implants are causing the shoulder issues. I do have torn rotator cuffs on both sides, but that's a whole other issue that does contribute to the "frozen" shoulders. It's very frustrating. I'm hoping that having the implants removed will relieve some of the pain. I'll keep you posted.