Outcome of Physical Limitations on Long Term Survival of Breast Cancer Survivors

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In a new study published in the online Journal of the National Cancer Institute researchers concluded that basic physical limitations after breast cancer treatment may affect the individuals length of survival. They found that breast cancer survivors who had functional limitations defined as an inability to perform normal daily activities as a result of their disease or its treatment were more likely to die of overall poorer health despite having the same risk of dying as other breast cancer survivors without limitations. Functional limitations that affected up to 39% of the survivors in this study were more often seen in obese breast cancer patients or older women. With changes in habits that allowed more physical activity their health and length of survival might be improved.
Impairments studied were motion, strength and dexterity and included activities such as an inability to kneel, lift items heavier than 10 pounds, handle small objects, stand in place, sit for long periods, walk up and down stairs or walk two or more city blocks. The researchers believe that developing interventions to improve physical functions such as walking around the block, carrying a heavy bag of grocery or rising easily from a chair might reduce the harmful outcomes.

In this study 2,202 women with breast cancer were questioned about endurance, strength, muscular range of motion, and small muscle dexterity after having treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, hormone replacement or other therapy. They were followed for up to 11 years. Outcomes differed depending upon the disease stage and those with localized cancer had higher rates of non-breast cancer deaths due to functional limitations than those with more advanced disease. Researchers believed the sample may have been biased to include more older and obese women in the localize group who tolerate treatment less well accounting for these findings. However, they conclude “women with functional limitations ……..would likely benefit from interventions to reduce their limitations and increase physical activities.”

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