Study Aims to Improve Breast Cancer Survivors' Outcomes with Physical Therapy
In honor of National Physical Therapy Month and Breast Cancer Awareness, we would like to highlight one of our latest researchers who was recently awarded the first-ever $40,000 Moffat Geriatric Research Grant to evaluate the effectiveness of physical therapist examinations and/or interventions in geriatric populations.
With this grant, Ann Marie Flores, PT, PhD, has set out to improve the lives of breast cancer survivors. The journey to overcome breast cancer is a difficult one, and the road to full recovery can be taxing. Despite it being the most common form of cancer and having a relatively high survival rate, a patient’s quality of life is often compromised as a result of grueling treatments. This is where a physical therapist comes into play. The various physical changes and debilitating side effects survivors of breast cancer undergo indicate the importance of including a PT on the health care team.
In her study titled “Breast Cancer Impairment Knowledge Study,” Flores, aims to compare health beliefs about breast cancer-related impairments and to demonstrate the role physical therapy plays to treat such impairments. “My goal is to translate population-based research into patient-centered, physical therapy based interventions that will improve physical and functional impairments, abilities, and self-efficacy for cancer survivors.”
While the implications of avoiding exercise in cancer survivors have been widely studied, Flores explains that “physical therapy and self-management of impairments remain absent.” Through her research of over 600 breast cancer survivors, she has found that about 80% reported having 1 or more related impairment and lacked pre-surgical self-management education. Her study also found that despite exhibiting extreme physical impairments, less than 20% of breast cancer survivors are referred to a physical therapist.
“I hope this project will help shed light on understanding the barriers to physical therapy utilization on the referring provider side. The Moffat grant will help unpack the reasons for this and provide important clues on how to overcome these barriers to care so our patients won’t have to spend their elderly years still dealing with cancer-related impairments.” Ann Marie Flores is an associate professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences and medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is excited to be working on what she describes as the first study of its kind to be conducted among oncology specialists and breast cancer survivors that will use the health belief model to measure breast cancer-related impairments and the role of physical therapy in addressing them.
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