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Breast cancer patients suffer treatment-related side effects long after completing care
Date:4/9/2012

an of 6.6 years, prospectively assessing the women for treatment-related physical and functional complications at set points throughout the study. Areas of study included postsurgical complications, skin reactions to radiation therapy, upper-body symptoms and functional limitations, lymphedema, weight gain, and fatigue. Sixty percent of the women were still experiencing one of these problems at six years after their diagnosis, and 30 percent were still struggling with at least two issues. Most of the problems appeared within the first year patients were assessed, but the prevalence of most impairments except lymphedema and weight gain -- decreased over the course of the study.

Writing in the lead editorial of the special issue of Cancer, Schmitz and her colleagues outline the myriad barriers that lay in the way of properly monitoring breast cancer survivors for the problems uncovered in the new study. Patients may have fragmented care, receiving different prongs of their treatment at different hospitals; patients and providers may believe certain problems are "expected" and "normal" and not appropriate for treatment; and unlike orthopedists and cardiologists who frequently send patients for physical rehabilitation to ensure their complete recovery, oncologists and surgeons are often poorly linked to physical therapy professionals, limiting the number of patients who are aware of or referred for these services.

In the face of these challenges, an expert panel laid out a model for prospectively surveying breast cancer survivors and formally incorporating rehabilitation and exercise experts into cancer survivorship programs. Research increasingly shows that post-treatment complications can be minimized and even prevented altogether when caught early and addressed through various rehabilitation regimens. "When early signs of impairment are noted and that impairment has a high probability of worsening if allowed to progress, which ultimately
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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