Recommendations for Physical and Occupational Therapy Practice from the Perspective of Clients Undergoing Therapy for Breast Cancer-related Impairments

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Evidence points to the efficacy of physical and occupational therapy intervention for the management of impairments and functional limitations related to the treatment of breast cancer. However, few studies give voice to the women participating in the physical rehabilitation programs intended to ameliorate their deficits. Objective: The purpose of this qualitative investigation was to explore the experience of physical rehabilitation as well as to identify recommendations for physical and occupational therapy practice from the perspective of the client undergoing therapy for breast cancer-related impairments. Design: A phenomenological design was chosen and included a purposive sample of women (n = 10) undergoing physical rehabilitation for impairments related to breast cancer treatment. Data included semistructured interviews and artifact examination. Methods: Ten semistructured interviews were conducted at a setting of the participants' choice. Data collection continued until saturation was reached. Data analysis was cyclical and ongoing and involved all six researchers in analyzing and triangulating all pieces of data. Member checks and a peer review were conducted to confirm relevance and validity. Results: Five themes emerged: 1) challenges with obtaining referrals, 2) challenges with patient education, 3) improvements in functional impairments, 4) emotional support, and 5) benefits of a specialized clinic environment. Conclusions: Consideration of the five themes led to four recommendations for physical and occupational therapist practice from the perspective of the client: 1) advocate for presurgical therapy consultations, 2) be competent in the management of all impairments and functional limitations associated with breast cancer treatment, 3) be aware of the emotional support the therapist has the capacity to provide or not provide, and 4) as much as possible, create an inviting, nonclinical environment.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of Allied Health is the official publication of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP). The Journal is the only interdisciplinary allied health periodical, publishing scholarly works related to research and development, feature articles, research abstracts and book reviews. Readers of the Journal comprise allied health leaders, educators, faculty and students.
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