Do breast cancer survivors' post-surgery difficulties with recreational activities persist over time?

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Most longitudinal breast cancer studies have found that treatment-related sequelae such as arm morbidity [lymphedema, pain, and range of motion (ROM) restrictions] can have a significant impact on quality of life. In a previous study, we found that at 6-12 months after breast cancer surgery, 49% of participants had difficulties engaging in recreational activities and that arm morbidity significantly predicted difficulties with participation in recreation.


A longitudinal national study employing clinical assessments and survey methods followed 178 women over 43 months (3.6 years) to assess issues related to arm morbidity post-breast cancer surgery. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify which variables were predictive of recreational difficulties experienced by women 8 and 43 months post-surgery.


Between 8 months (T1) and 43 months (T2) post-breast cancer surgery, women demonstrated slight increases in lymphedema. Conversely, a significant decrease was observed in the number of ROM restrictions and pain when using the arm. Despite the overall improvements in arm morbidity, some women continued to report moderate pain and ROM restrictions. The two arm morbidity factors were found to be statistically significant (p < 0.001) predictors of recreational difficulties at both 8 and 43 months post-surgery, with pain accounting for the greatest proportion of variance.


Pain and ROM restrictions were the only significant predictors of recreational difficulties during the first 3.6 years after breast cancer surgery. Specifically, women who still experience pain years after breast cancer surgery report difficulties in their recreational pursuits.

Implications for cancer survivors

Pain and ROM restrictions may prohibit participation in recreational activity and targeted intervention should be sought.

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