McNeely, M.L., Campbell, K., Ospina, M., Rowe, B.H., Dabbs, K., Klassen, T. P., . . . Courneya, K. (2010). Exercise interventions for upper-limb dysfunction due to breast cancer treatment. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online), 6, CD005211.doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005211.pub2
To examine the evidence of effectiveness from randomized controlled trials involving exercise interventions for preventing, minimizing, and improving upper-limb dysfunction because of breast cancer treatment
The total number of studies reviewed initially was 82. Two authors independently performed the data abstraction. One author performed the initial pre-screen of all the databases to identify potential trials and screened the results to exclude articles that were clearly irrelevant. Two independent authors screened the reduced search results. If either or both authors felt that the article potentially met the inclusion criteria, or if there was inadequate information to make a decision, full-text copies of the article were retrieved. Using the defined eligibility criteria, the two authors independently decided on trial inclusion. A priori, authors made the decision to exclude any data that were available only in abstract form. Review authors were not blinded to study authors, journal, or study results. Agreement was measured and assessed using kappa statistics. Three investigators independently assessed quality of the trials and extracted data independently using a standardized form. Investigators were contacted for missing data.
Exercise can result in a significant and clinically meaningful improvement in shoulder ROM in women with breast cancer. There is evidence that patients benefit from exercise interventions that include more structured instruction and supervision when compared to exercise instruction through a pamphlet or no exercise instruction. Of note, larger benefits were found for shoulder range of motion and shoulder function outcomes from physical therapy treatment that was introduced in the early weeks following surgery. There was no evidence of a negative effect from upper-extremity exercise on the incidence of upper-limb lymphedema at any time point following surgery.
In the postoperative period, consideration should be given to early implementation of exercises, although this approach may need to be carefully weighed against the potential for increases in wound drainage volume and duration. High-quality research studies that closely monitor exercise prescription factors (e.g., intensity) and address persistent upper-limb dysfunction are needed.