Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Medicine

Abstract

Background: Regular exercise is highly beneficial for women who have been treated for breast cancer. Bra discomfort has been cited as a potential barrier to exercise for these women, due to the unique physical side-effects of breast cancer treatment. These women have specific needs in an exercise bra that must be met in order to enable them to participate in exercise with minimal bra discomfort.

Research Question: The overall aim of this thesis was to evaluate cause of, and extent to which, bra discomfort is a barrier to exercise; to systematically investigate what women treated for breast cancer required in an exercise bra; and to build a better exercise bra for these women based on this information.

Methods: To fulfil these aims, a series of studies were conducted, which are presented in three parts. In the first part of the thesis, a national online survey was conducted to understand the influence of exercise on treatment side effects, the benefits and barriers of exercise for women treated for breast cancer, and the impact bra discomfort had on the exercise levels of these women (Chapters 2-4). The second part of this thesis identified specific exercise bra design requirements for women treated for breast cancer, and designed an experimental bra solution (Chapters 5-6). In the final part of the thesis, a laboratory-based biomechanical study (Chapter 7) evaluated an experimental exercise bra design, which was based on the information concluded from the first two parts of the thesis.

Major Conclusions: Breast cancer treatment has lasting side-effects, which can be positively influenced by participating in regular exercise. However, exercise bra discomfort is a key barrier to exercise, such that reporting exercise bra discomfort is significantly linked to low levels of exercise among women treated for breast cancer. It is apparent that several unique issues surrounding breast cancer treatment side-effects exacerbate the bra discomfort experienced by these women, and understanding such issues provides a fundamental first step towards designing better exercise bra solutions. Based on the recommendations provided by women treated for breast cancer, an Experimental bra was designed, developed and evaluated. Although further iterations are required to improve the design, the initial success of the design permits the conclusion that a specifically-developed exercise bra can enable women treated for breast cancer to enjoy the benefits of exercise without suffering bra discomfort.

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