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Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy:
Clinical Commentary

Physical Therapy Care for Women Status Post Breast Cancer Surgery— A Pilot Survey

Nuzzo, Nancy A. PT, PhD1; O'Brien, Kristin PT, MPT2

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Abstract

This manuscript was completed in part to meet requirements for the MPT degree from Northern Illinois University.

Once diagnosed with breast cancer, women often undergo a mastectomy procedure, which may involve breast reconstruction. Since both procedures are invasive and cause tissue and system imbalance, physical therapy intervention is appropriate yet not often utilized.

PURPOSE:: The purpose of this pilot study was to survey therapists in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Section on Women's Health (SOWH) to determine the frequency of physical therapy care for women postbreast cancer surgery in their clinical practices.

SUBJECTS:: A total of 2497 members are on record on the APTA website as members of the SOWH.

METHODS AND MATERIALS:: A 4‐question survey was sent by email to subjects. The survey collected data about the state/country location of the member's clinical practice, the type of clinical practice setting, and specific intervention information regarding physical therapy care for women who had undergone mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction.

ANALYSIS:: Information was tabulated using Microsoft Access Software. Data was described using qualitative analysis.

RESULTS:: 9.6% (239/2497) of the Section members filled out and returned the survey (16% came from the Northeast US, 32% from the South US, 34% from the Midwest US, and 18% from the West US). Most respondents practiced in an outpatient setting (82%). Sixty‐five percent (155) of the respondents had treated at least one woman who had undergone a mastectomy procedure; however, 31% (48) of those therapists had seen 20 or more women throughout their career. Fifty‐five percent (131) of the respondents had treated at least one woman who had undergone a mastectomy and breast reconstruction; however, 22% (29) of those therapists had seen 20 or more women. Therapeutic exercises were the most frequently used intervention for women who had undergone a mastectomy procedure while soft tissue mobilization was the most frequent intervention employed for women who had undergone breast reconstruction.

CONCLUSION:: This study suggests that most respondents from the APTA Section on Women's Health do not routinely provide care for women postbreast cancer surgery in their clinical practices. Those members that do, are in an outpatient setting. This may suggest that women postbreast cancer surgery are not frequently seen by physical therapists postoperatively and if they are in the care of a physical therapist it usually occurs after the development of postsurgical musculoskeletal complications.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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