Purpose: Breast cancer survivorship is common (90% of women survive 5 or more years), but many women are not able to return to full function and well-being after treatment due to functional limitations, persistent pain, and inability to perform daily activities. Since each surgical reconstructive option (e.g., autologous tissue flaps versus implants) can impact shoulder and arm function differently, it is important to understand how shoulder and upper limb strength, mobility, and function are influenced by the type of surgical intervention. Efforts can then focus on prehabiliation strategies to prevent the onset of limitations and on developing rehabilitation protocols that directly target shortcomings. Methods: The current paper presents a review summarizing how shoulder and upper limb function may be affected by surgical mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Results: Mastectomy and breast reconstruction with implants or autologous tissues present different functional outcomes for patients. Each surgical procedure is associated with unique sequelae derived from the tissues and procedures associated with each surgery. Characterizing the specific functional outcomes associated with each surgical approach will promote the development of targeted rehabilitation strategies that can be implemented into a multidisciplinary treatment planning pathway for breast cancer patients. Conclusions: Surgical treatments for breast cancer, including mastectomy and breast reconstruction, can have negative effects. Focused efforts are needed to better understand treatment-specific effects so that targeted rehabilitation can be developed to improve patient function, QoL, and ability to return to work and life activities post-breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-541
Number of pages11
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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