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USC researchers hope study will mean better outcomes for breast cancer patients

Dr. Shana Harrington is studying the impact physical therapy has on unilateral mastectomy patients.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dr. Shana Harrington is the interim physical therapy program director at the University of South Carolina.  

She's been studying breast cancer patients for more than 15 years and her current research hopes to change the way health care providers recommend physical therapy for patients who have undergone a unilateral mastectomy.

Harrington's clinical study group is small.  It's a population of women who are newly diagnosed and available for a minimum of 6 months. Harrington said the approach to treating patients who have one breast removed has been slow to conform.

Beth Bilderback is one of the women participating in the clinical study with Harrington.  She says the exercises she's received during physical have been incredibly beneficial.  Simple things like reaching for a glass in a cabinet or putting on a shirt can be difficult for unilateral mastectomy patients.  The exercises study participants receive are gentle but also effective.

Harrington says, "Unfortunately, rehab is not always the norm when you're diagnosed with breast cancer."  

Her early data indicates there are cost analyses that show that if intervention happens early, it saves stakeholders money in the long run.  She said there is also data that shows being physically active helps a patient recover a lot better from surgery.

If you are interested in participating in the study you can reach out to Dr. Harrington.  Her email address is: sharring@mailbox.sc.edu 

Health care professionals say the key to surviving breast cancer is early intervention.  You are encouraged to talk with your doctor about when you should begin your annual mammogram.

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