Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 517–528 | Cite as

Self-reported side effects of breast cancer treatment: a cross-sectional study of incidence, associations, and the influence of exercise

  • Sheridan A. GhoEmail author
  • Julie R. Steele
  • Sandra C. Jones
  • Bridget J. Munro
Original paper



Side effects as a result of breast cancer treatment may have a lasting detrimental impact on quality of life. Exercise has been shown to be an effective intervention in post-treatment care. This study aimed to gain a better understanding of breast cancer treatment-related side effects through identifying potential patient characteristic associations, including current levels of exercise.


Four hundred and thirty-two breast cancer patients completed an online survey covering their treatment and demographic background, current exercise levels, and self-reported treatment side effects. Side effects were considered in a binary logistic regression against age, surgery, currently undergoing treatment, and exercise levels to ascertain significant relationships (p < 0.05) and associative values (Odds Ratio).


Lumpectomy patients were less likely to report aching muscles (OR 0.61, 95 % CI 0.39–0.96), hot flushes (OR 0.60, 95 % CI 0.38–0.96), and weight gain (OR 0.59, 95 % CI 0.38–0.92) than mastectomy patients. Women currently undergoing treatment were more likely to report hot flushes (OR 3.77, 95 % CI 2.34–6.08), aching muscles (OR 1.62, 95 % CI 1.02–2.57), and weight gain (OR 1.89, 95 % CI 1.19–2.99) than women finished treatment. Sedentary women were more likely to experience shoulder limitations (OR 1.77, 95 % CI 1.14–2.77), muscular chest wall pain (OR 1.69, 95 % CI 1.07–2.65), weight gain (OR 2.29, 95 % CI 1.44–3.64), lymphedema (OR 1.68, 95 % CI 1.04–2.71), and breathlessness (OR 2.30 95 % CI 1.35–3.92) than their physically active counterparts.


Patient characteristics may inform interventions to improve care post-breast cancer treatment. Sufficient levels of exercise were consistently associated fewer side effects and should be encouraged.


Breast cancer Side effects Women’s health Exercise Treatment Survey 



This project was funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation with the support of Cancer Australia. No other funding sources supported this work, and there are no financial disclosures from any of the authors. We also acknowledge the support of the BCNA and Cancer Councils of Victoria and Western Australia throughout the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheridan A. Gho
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julie R. Steele
    • 1
  • Sandra C. Jones
    • 2
  • Bridget J. Munro
    • 1
  1. 1.Biomechanics Research Laboratory, School of Health SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Health InitiativesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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