Patient Perceptions of Arm Care and Exercise Advice After Breast Cancer Surgery

Teresa S. Lee

Sharon L. Kilbreath

Gerard Sullivan

Kathryn M. Refshauge

Jane M. Beith

breast cancer, breast neoplasms, lymphedema, exercise, surgery
ONF 2009, 37(1), 85-91. DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.85-91

Purpose/Objectives: To describe in greater detail women's experiences receiving advice about arm care and exercise after breast cancer treatment.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Three hospitals in Sydney, Australia.

Sample: 175 patients with breast cancer recruited 6-15 months after their surgery.

Methods: Patients completed a survey about their perceptions of arm activity after breast cancer and were asked to respond to an open-ended question about their experience receiving advice about arm care and exercise. Comments from 48 women (27%) who volunteered responses were collated and categorized.

Main Research Variables: Patients' experience with arm care and exercise advice after breast cancer surgery.

Findings: Topics raised by respondents included perceptions of inadequate and conflicting advice, lack of acknowledgment of women's concerns about upper limb impairments, an unsupported search for information about upper limb impairments, fear of lymphedema, women's demand for follow-up physiotherapy, and some positive experiences with supportive care.

Conclusions: Upper limb impairments are problematic for some breast cancer survivors, and these concerns are not always taken seriously by health professionals. To date, standardized advice is provided that does not meet the needs and expectations of a cohort of women after breast cancer surgery.

Implications for Nursing: Health professionals could better address patients' concerns about upper limb impairments by providing accurate advice relevant to the surgery.

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