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Primary Focus: Rehab, Disability, and Participation

Learning Objectives:

By the conclusion of the session, the learner will be able to:

1. Describe the impact of breast cancer surgery on occupational performance.

2. Discuss evidence-based biomechanical occupational therapy interventions for women status post breast cancer surgery.

3. Apply evidence based research study findings to clinical practice in order to improve client-centered outcomes to increase quality of life.


One out of every eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her life (National Cancer Institute, 2012). In 2013, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States (BreastCancer.Org, 2014). Common surgical interventions for breast cancer including mastectomy, lumpectomy, and axillary node dissection are associated with physical, emotional, and cognitive implications that can result in a decreased ability to engage in meaningful occupations (AOTA, 2014). Due to the increasing prevalence of breast cancer, many occupational therapists in rehabilitation settings will be providing services to clients with occupational deficits secondary to surgical interventions for breast cancer. Occupational therapists will benefit from increased knowledge of biomechanical interventions to improve quality of life post-breast surgery.A systematic review was conducted using the PubMed, CINAHL, and OT Seeker databases to search existing literature from 2003-2014 to answer the clinical question: What is the evidence for biomechanical interventions to improve quality of life for women post-surgery due to breast cancer? Articles written in the English language and detailing specific biomechanical interventions (i.e., ROM, endurance, exercise, UE lymphedema management, scar management) were identified for review. Levels I-IV of evidence were included. Participants were 19 years or older, female, and have a history of breast cancer. The systematic search resulted in 14 articles for review. Articles were critiqued using Evaluation of Quality of an Intervention Study criteria forms for appraising qualitative and quantitative studies (Law & McDermid, 2003). The following themes related to the use of biomechanical interventions to improve quality of life emerged during review: exercise-based interventions, patient education, leisure occupation-based interventions, and timing of intervention. Findings suggest that combining patient education with exercise-based interventions leads to greater improvements in quality of life. There is mixed evidence regarding timing of intervention implementation. It was found that embedding biomechanical interventions into a meaningful occupation leads to greater quality of life. Occupational therapists may use the findings of this systematic review to inform intervention and improve client outcomes.

Presentation: 38 minutes