Experiences of pelvic floor dysfunction and treatment in women with breast cancer: a qualitative study

Udari N. Colombage, Kuan Yin Lin, Sze Ee Soh, Robyn Brennen, Helena C. Frawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To explore the experiences of women with breast cancer and pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction and the perceived enablers and barriers to uptake of treatment for PF dysfunction during their recovery. Method: Purposive sampling was used to recruit 30 women with a past diagnosis of breast cancer and PF dysfunction. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and data were analysed inductively to identify new concepts in the experiences of PF dysfunction in women with breast cancer and deductively according to the capability, opportunity, motivation and behaviour (COM-B) framework to identify the enablers and barriers to the uptake of treatment for PF dysfunction in women with breast cancer. Results: Participants were aged between 31 and 88 years, diagnosed with stages I–IV breast cancer and experienced either urinary incontinence (n = 24/30, 80%), faecal incontinence (n = 6/30, 20%) or sexual dysfunction (n = 20/30, 67%). They were either resigned to or bothered by their PF dysfunction; bother was exacerbated by embarrassment from experiencing PF symptoms in public. Barriers to accessing treatment for PF dysfunction included a lack of awareness about PF dysfunction following breast cancer treatments and health care professionals not focussing on the management of PF symptoms during cancer treatment. An enabler was their motivation to resume their normal pre-cancer lives. Conclusion: Participants in this study reported that there needs to be more awareness about PF dysfunction in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. They would like to receive information about PF dysfunction prior to starting cancer treatment, be screened for PF dysfunction during cancer treatment and be offered therapies for their PF dysfunction after primary cancer treatment. Therefore, a greater focus on managing PF symptoms by clinicians may be warranted in women with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8139-8149
Number of pages11
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology


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