The effect of pelvic floor muscle interventions on pelvic floor dysfunction after gynecological cancer treatment: A systematic review

Robyn Brennen, Kuan Yin Lin, Linda Denehy, Helena C. Frawley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. The aim of this systematic review was to identify, evaluate, and synthesize the evidence from studies that have investigated the effect of nonsurgical, nonpharmacological, pelvic floor muscle interventions on any type of pelvic floor dysfunction or health-related quality of life in patients after any type of treatment for gynecological cancer. Methods. Six electronic databases (Cochrane Library 2018, CINAHL 1982–2018, MEDLINE 1950–2018, EMBASE 1980–2018, PsycINFO 1806–2018, and EMCARE 1995–2018) were systematically searched in June 2018. Reference lists of identified articles were hand searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, and case series were included if they investigated the effects of conservative treatments, including pelvic floor muscle training or dilator training, on bladder, bowel, or sexual function in patients who had received treatment for gynecological cancer. Risk of bias was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale for RCTs and the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for cohort studies. Results. Five RCTs and 2 retrospective cohort studies were included (n = 886). The results provided moderate-level evidence that pelvic floor muscle training with counseling and yoga or core exercises were beneficial for sexual function (standardized mean difference = −0.96, 95% CI = −1.22 to −0.70, I2 = 0%) and health-related quality of life (standardized mean difference = 0.63, 95% CI = 0.38 to 0.88, I2 = 0%) in survivors of cervical cancer and very low-level evidence that dilator therapy reduced vaginal complications in survivors of cervical and uterine cancer (odds ratio = 0.37, 95% CI = 0.17 to 0.80, I2 = 54%). There were insufficient data for meta-analysis of bladder or bowel function. Conclusion. Conservative pelvic floor muscle interventions may be beneficial for improving sexual function and health-related quality of life in survivors of gynecological cancer. Given the levels of evidence reported in this review, further high-quality studies are needed, especially to investigate effects on bladder and bowel function. Impact. This review provides moderate-level evidence for the role of pelvic floor rehabilitation to improve health outcomes in the gynecological cancer survivorship journey. Clinicians and health service providers should consider how to provide cancer survivors the opportunity to participate in supervised pelvic floor rehabilitation programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1371
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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