Physical side-effects following breast reconstructive surgery impact physical activity and function

Publication Name

Supportive Care in Cancer


Purpose: To investigate the incidence and severity of physical side-effects experienced by women following breast reconstructive surgery and the effect of these side-effects on physical activity and function. Methods: Two hundred and thirty-one Australian women (55 years SD 6.5) who had previously had breast reconstruction surgery retrospectively self-reported the incidence and severity of eight physical side-effects and the perceived effect of these side effects on six physical functions, at three time points after their surgery. The frequency of the combined incidence/severity scores and their impact at the three time points were tabulated and compared using Chi-squared tests. A general linear regression was used to identify characteristics associated with moderate–very high (≥ 5/10) combined incidence/severity scores. Results: At 6 months following surgery, approximately 50% of respondents reported moderate to very high incidence/severity scores for physical side-effects across multiple body regions, which were perceived to limit their physical function and activity levels. The highest incidence/severity scores were associated with the following: (i) pre-existing physical problems before surgery, (ii) post-operative complications (seroma, infection, necrosis), and (iii) autologous rather than implant-based reconstructions. Conclusion: A large percentage of women reported moderate to severe physical side-effects across multiple body regions following breast reconstructive surgery. These side-effects were perceived to negatively impact both physical function and activity. Early intervention, education and treatment are recommended to alleviate these issues and minimise their negative impact.

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