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The debilitating arm and shoulder disability and pain that some women who have had breast cancer surgery experience as a side effect of their surgery can be reduced by following a physiotherapy-led exercise programme after their operation, a new study has found.

Woman holding her shoulder in pain

Key findings:

  • Results of the clinical trial show significant improvement for women taking part in a structured exercise programme following breast cancer surgery
  • Non-reconstructive breast cancer surgeries, such as mastectomy and treatments to the axilla (armpit), often leave patients with debilitating arm and shoulder problems
  • With 85% of women now surviving for five years after breast cancer, there is a need to support women recovering from breast cancer treatments

Led by the University of Warwick, an international team of researchers, including a team from the Centre for Rehabilitation Research (RRIO) at Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS), described an improvement in shoulder and arm mobility and reduction in pain amongst women who were recovering after non-reconstructive breast cancer surgery after taking part in the structured PROSPER rehabilitation programme.

Published in The BMJ, the study authors are calling for wider adoption of the PROSPER programme in cancer services to improve the wellbeing of women recovering from breast cancer surgery. The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care. 

Read the full story on the NDORMS website

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