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Methods to improve rehabilitation of patients following breast cancer surgery: a review of systematic reviews

Authors Loh SY, Musa AN

Received 9 December 2014

Accepted for publication 28 January 2015

Published 11 March 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 81—98

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/BCTT.S47012

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Pranela Rameshwar

Siew Yim Loh, Aisya Nadia Musa

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Context: Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer amongst women but it has the highest survival rates amongst all cancer. Rehabilitation therapy of post-treatment effects from cancer and its treatment is needed to improve functioning and quality of life. This review investigated the range of methods for improving physical, psychosocial, occupational, and social wellbeing in women with breast cancer after receiving breast cancer surgery.
Method: A search for articles published in English between the years 2009 and 2014 was carried out using The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, PubMed, and ScienceDirect. Search terms included: ‘breast cancer’, ‘breast carcinoma’, ‘surgery’, ‘mastectomy’, ‘lumpectomy’, ‘breast conservation’, ‘axillary lymph node dissection’, ‘rehabilitation’, 'therapy’, ‘physiotherapy’, ‘occupational therapy’, ‘psychological’, ‘psychosocial’, ‘psychotherapy’, ‘exercise’, ‘physical activity’, ‘cognitive’, ‘occupational’, ‘alternative’, ‘complementary’, and ‘systematic review’.
Study selection: Systematic reviews on the effectiveness of rehabilitation methods in improving post-operative physical, and psychological outcomes for breast cancer were selected. Sixteen articles met all the eligibility criteria and were included in the review.
Data extraction: Included review year, study aim, total number of participants included, and results.
Data synthesis: Evidence for exercise rehabilitation is predominantly in the improvement of shoulder mobility and limb strength. Inconclusive results exist for a range of rehabilitation methods (physical, psycho-education, nutritional, alternative-complementary methods) for addressing the domains of psychosocial, cognitive, and occupational outcomes.
Conclusion: There is good evidence for narrowly-focused exercise rehabilitation in improving physical outcome particularly for shoulder mobility and lymphedema. There were inconclusive results for methods to improve psychosocial, cognitive, and occupational outcomes. There were no reviews on broader performance areas and lifestyle factors to enable effective living after treatment. The review suggests that comprehensiveness and effectiveness of post-operative breast cancer rehabilitation should consider patients’ self-management approaches towards lifestyle redesign, and incorporate health promotion aspects, in light of the fact that breast cancer is now taking the form of a chronic illness with longer survivorship years.

Keywords: breast cancer surgery, rehabilitation methods, symptom-management, quality of life, lifestyle redesign, self-management

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