(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Women who have completed treatment for breast cancer experience at least one treatment-related side effect and could benefit from rehabilitation, according to researchers from University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, and Queensland University of Technology, School of Public Health, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Brisbane, Australia. The study, entitled “Prevalence of breast cancer treatment sequelae over six years of follow-up”, was published in the April 15 issue of Cancer.

The researchers aimed to better describe and understand the prevalence of breast cancer treatment-related adverse effects amenable to physical therapy and rehabilitative exercise. Prior to this research, known as “The Pulling Through Study”, studies had limited follow up.

Two hundred and eighty-seven (287) Australian women diagnosed with invasive, unilateral breast cancer were followed for a median of 6.6 years. The study population was prospectively assessed for treatment-related complications at 6, 12, and 18 months and 6 years post-diagnosis. The women were assessed for postsurgical complications, skin/tissue reactions to radiation therapy, upper-body symptoms, lymphedema, weight changes, fatigue, and upper-quadrant function.

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“At six years after diagnosis, more than 60% of women experienced one or more side effects amenable to rehabilitative intervention. The proportion of women experiencing three or more side effects decreased throughout follow-up, whereas the proportion experiencing no side effects remained stable around 40% from 12 months to six years”, the authors wrote.  

The authors concluded: “These data support the development of a multidisciplinary prospective surveillance approach for the purposes of managing and treating adverse effects in breast cancer survivors.”