Teaching of Independent Exercises for Prehabilitation in Breast Cancer

J Cancer Educ. 2017 Jun;32(2):252-256. doi: 10.1007/s13187-015-0940-y.


We attempted to determine the feasibility of studying prehabilitation exercises to improve shoulder pain and abduction range of motion (ROM) after breast cancer surgery. We evaluated methods of exercise teaching and assessed effect on postsurgical seroma formation. This was a feasibility study with two non-blinded groups of subjects randomized by timing of appointment. This single-site study was performed at an academic tertiary medical center. Sixty cancer patients were randomly assigned to either group 1, in-person teaching arm, n = 36, or group 2, video-only teaching arm, n = 24. Forty-five patients completed the study. Shoulder exercises were assigned to both groups 1 month prior to surgery during evaluation. Group 1 received in-person instruction on exercises, plus an information sheet with exercises and a link to an online video. Group 2 received only the information sheet with exercises and a link to the online video. The primary outcomes considered are as follows: exercise compliance, shoulder pain (via visual analog scale), shoulder abduction ROM (via goniometer), and presence or absence of seroma. Seventy-six percent of study patients chose to exercise. There was no difference in exercise compliance between in-person teaching versus video teaching (75 %, 24/32 vs. 77 %, 10/13, OR = 1.03). Sixty-six of patients (20/30) lost greater than 10° shoulder abduction ROM at 1 month post surgery. Twenty-nine of patients (9/31) had worse shoulder pain than baseline at 1 month post surgery (24 %, 6/25 exercisers, and 50 %, 3/6 non-exercisers). Fifteen percent of patients (4/27) had worse shoulder pain than baseline at 3 months post surgery (8 %, 2/23 exercisers, and 100 %, 2/2 non-exercisers). Prehabilitation exercise program inferred no additional risk of seroma formation (Exercisers 21 %, 7/33 vs. non-exercisers 22 %, 2/9, OR = 0.94). Our subjects were able to perform three exercises independently in the preoperative period. A high-quality randomized controlled trial is necessary to assess the appropriate timing and efficacy of this intervention.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cancer prehab; Prehabilitation; Shoulder pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Treatment Outcome