Multidisciplinary rehabilitation program after breast cancer: benefits on physical function, anthropometry and quality of life

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2017 Oct;53(5):633-642. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04551-8. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Background: Different clinical trials show beneficial effects of physical training offered during and/or after breast cancer treatment. However, given the variety of side effects that may be encountered, physical training could be combined with psychological, relational and social guidance. This kind of multidisciplinary program has been little studied so far.

Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the benefits of a three-month multidisciplinary rehabilitation program among women after breast cancer treatment.

Design: Controlled no-randomized trial.

Setting: University for outcomes, University Hospital Center for interventions.

Population: Two hundred and nine outpatients who have been treated for a primary breast carcinoma.

Methods: Patients were divided into a control group (N.=106) and an experimental group (N.=103) which has benefited from a rehabilitation program of three months including physical training and psycho-educational sessions. The assessments, performed before and after the program, included functional assessments ("Sit and Reach Test", maximal incremental exercise test and "Six-Minute Walk Test"), body composition measurements (Body Mass Index [BMI] and body fat percentage) and a questionnaire (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire-Core 30).

Results: After three months, flexibility, walking distance and all parameters measured during the maximal incremental exercise, except maximal heart rate, were significantly improved in the experimental group. The body fat percentage was significantly decreased and a significant improvement was observed for perceived health status (quality of life), functional role, emotional state, physical, cognitive and social functions and for most symptoms. In the control group, most of these improvements didn't appear and a significant increase in BMI and body fat percentage was observed.

Conclusions: This trial identifies the benefits of a well detailed multidisciplinary rehabilitation program, including physical re-conditioning and psycho-educational sessions, with important improvements in functional capacity, body composition and the majority of functions and symptoms among women after breast cancer treatment.

Clinical rehabilitation impact: Through its results, this study could contribute to the development of hospital quality standards for oncologic rehabilitation. Physiotherapists can efficiently propose this kind of multidisciplinary rehabilitation program.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Belgium
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Mastectomy / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / organization & administration*
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Program Development
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome