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Physical activity level, exercise behavior, barriers, and preferences of patients with breast cancer–related lymphedema

Abstract

Purpose

To identify physical activity level, exercise behavior, barriers, and preferences in female patients with breast cancer–related lymphedema (BCRL).

Methods

Patients with BCRL consulted to physical therapy to receive lymphedema treatment were included. Age, gender, body mass index matched healthy controls (HC) were included to identify differences. The transtheoretical model was used to determine exercise behavior. Physical activity level was assessed by the International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF). The exercise barriers and preferences of patients with BCRL were recorded using a checklist based on the previous studies.

Results

A total of 48 female patients with BCRL and 38 female HC participated in the study. Physical activity level was significantly lower in patients with BCRL when compared to HC (p ˂ 0.05). However, the number of participants who engaged in regular exercise was significantly higher in patients with BCRL than HC (33.2% vs 7.9%, p ˂ 0.05). The most common exercise barriers were fatigue (64.5%), having other responsibilities (60.4%), and weather-related factors (56.2%). Majority of the participants preferred to participate in a supervised (79.1%), structured (66.6%), combined-type (77.1%), and moderate intensity (79.1%) exercise program, and they preferred to be informed at the time of the cancer diagnosis (45.8%) by a physiotherapist (66.6%). Moreover, the most preferred exercise type was walking/jogging (66.6%).

Conclusion

The present study showed inadequate physical activity and exercise behavior in patients with BCRL. Supportive care interventions are needed to overcome barriers for patients with BCRL. Preferences of patients and exercise enjoyment should also be taken into consideration to increase the participation in exercises.

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Correspondence to Vesile Yildiz Kabak.

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The Hacettepe University Ethical Committee approved the present study.

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Yildiz Kabak, V., Gursen, C., Aytar, A. et al. Physical activity level, exercise behavior, barriers, and preferences of patients with breast cancer–related lymphedema. Support Care Cancer 29, 3593–3602 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05858-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05858-3

Keywords

  • Barriers
  • Breast neoplasms
  • Exercise
  • Lymphedema
  • The transtheoretical model