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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • physical activity;
  • physiotherapy;
  • qualitative study;
  • phenomenographic

Physical activity is of great benefit to women treated for breast cancer and can even be vital. The aim of this qualitative study was to describe how women treated for breast cancer experience physical activity after surgery. Twelve women, strategically selected according to hospital, age and length of time since surgery, took part in a semi-structured interview. A qualitative method with a phenomenographic approach was used.

The result indicates that the incentive to remain or return to a normal physical condition is an important motive for physical activity after breast cancer surgery. The experience of physical activity was, from the women’s perspective, expressed in (i) compliance to instructions and need for support, (ii) struggle to get back to normal and fear of negative side-effects, (iii) a wish to stay normal and not allow limitations and (iv) getting control of the situation with new strategies. In conclusion, instructions and motivation are important in starting up and/or continuing physical activity after breast cancer treatment. While in considering the vital benefits of physical activity for breast cancer patients healthcare professionals, and in particular physiotherapists, must be aware of the need for information and the patients’ motive for exercise and physical activity to be able to guide and encourage them individually.

The professionals must also understand the need for empowerment for these women to take control over their lives and to allow the limitations that eventually occur.