Many Canadian breast cancer survivors will, unfortunately, experience arm problems after treatment. Pain, range of motion restrictions and lymphedema may all be disabling. It is therefore critical to examine the impact of these challenges. In addition to the lack of a national rehabilitation program, the knowledge base surrounding disability after breast cancer has been limited. Studies of its effects on childcare, intimacy, or paid and unpaid labour are minimal. As a result of insufficient research, health care professionals are unable to adequately address arm problems following breast cancer. With this in mind, our research team was assembled with the goal of executing a nation-wide study at four sites (Fredericton/Saint John, Montreal, Winnipeg and Surrey). Participants have been followed for 5 years to generate knowledge regarding the ways in which arm problems manifest, and to what extent these problems may be disabling. To date, disability has been examined within the domains of work and labour, family, and leisure activities. Ultimately, the study will create a foundation for cancer rehabilitation and associated policy development on both a national and international stage.
Already, this research has fostered the development of additional studies, including the “From Dissemination to Intervention” project, in which women with lymphedema after breast cancer contributed to the development of an ethnodrama script. The resulting video can be viewed via a link at www.roannethomas.ca. The photos on the cover of our report (link below) were prepared by participants in this study. They depict the modifications to everyday life described by women with lymphedema, including a need to unlock information and find new tools to address their concerns.
Research in the area of disability after breast cancer continues and I invite you to explore our website for information about presentations, publications and future work.
Arm morbidity and disability after breast cancer: New directions for care
General Background Information:
- Many women suffer from arm-morbidity (swelling, pain, restricted range of motion[ROM]) following medical treatment for breast cancer
- Lack of standardized and substantiated measures for assessing arm morbidity symptoms may inhibit the response of healthcare professionals
- Arm morbidity pain significantly affects activities of daily living and the quality of life of breast cancer survivors
- Healthcare professionals may increase their ability to assess, treat, and educate patients through pertinent questioning of patients regarding activities of daily living