Women's experience of breast cancer is complex, affecting all aspects of life during and after treatment. Patients' perspectives about common impairments and functional limitations secondary to breast cancer treatment, including upper extremity motion restriction, lymphedema, fatigue, weight gain, pain, and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, are addressed. Women often report being uninformed regarding these side effects and surprised that they do not always disappear after treatment, but remain part of their lives. Breast cancer patients express strong, unmet needs for education, information, and intervention for these side effects. Evidence suggests that rehabilitation and exercise are effective in preventing and managing many physical side effects of breast cancer treatment. Nevertheless, few women are referred to rehabilitation during or after treatment, and fewer receive baseline assessments of impairment and function to facilitate early detection of impairment and functional limitations. The prospective surveillance model of rehabilitation will serve the needs of women with breast cancer by providing education and information about treatment side effects, reducing the incidence and burden of side effects through early identification and treatment, and enhancing access to timely rehabilitation. Integration of exercise as a component of the model benefits patients at every phase of survivorship, by addressing individual concerns about exercise during and after treatment and highlighting the important contribution of exercise to overall health and survival. The prospective surveillance model of rehabilitation can meet the evident and often expressed needs of survivors for information, guidance, and intervention--thus addressing, and potentially improving, overall quality of life for individuals diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.
Copyright © 2012 American Cancer Society.