Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. More women now survive, with 2 out of 3 women living for 20 years beyond their diagnosis. It is extremely important that the NHS cares for women to ensure recovery and return to usual activities after cancer treatment. Most women have surgery to the breast and axilla (armpit); some also have radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These treatments can affect the muscles, nerves and lymphatic vessels in the shoulder and upper body resulting in limited range of motion, weakness, persistent pain, altered sensations and lymphoedema. Research suggests that structured exercises programmes, commenced within days or weeks of surgery, can improve shoulder movement and reduce complications. Women who have extensive cancer treatment (e.g surgery to the axilla or radiotherapy) are at greater risk of developing shoulder problems.
This study will compare 2 interventions for women at higher risk of upper body symptoms after cancer treatment: (a) usual care, which is a written information leaflet, compared to (b) a physiotherapy-led exercise programme with an individualised monitoring plan.
To demonstrate an early supervised exercise programme delivered to women after breast cancer surgery can improve outcomes of shoulder function, health-related quality of life and reduce chronic pain and related adverse events at 12 months after treatment.