Survivors of breast cancer (BC) on the non-dominant side have more persistent deficits than those with cancer on the dominant limb. What is not known is whether those with BC use their involved upper limbs more, less, or at the same level as women without BC. Accelerometer use offers a quantifiable method to measure activity levels of upper limbs. The purpose of this study was to quantify the activity levels of the non-dominant involved limb among survivors of BC and compare these values to their dominant limb, as well as the non-dominant limb of a control group.


Participants (n = 30) were women with unilateral BC on the non-dominant limb, diagnosed between 6 and 24 months prior to data collection, and a matched healthy group of women as controls. Participants completed the following questionnaires: medical and demographics, Brief Fatigue Inventory, Brief Pain Inventory – Short form, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH), and Beck Depression Index. Participants wore an accelerometer on each wrist during waking hours for 7 days. Arm activity was measured using vector magnitude activity counts extracted from the accelerometers.


There were no significant differences in total vector magnitude activity counts between groups for either limb. Within group dominant to non-dominant comparison was significantly different (p ≤ 0.001). No significant difference in pain was present but significant differences for fatigue (p = 0.002), depression (p = 0.004), and DASH scores (p = 0.035) were present.


Women with non-dominant BC use their involved limb similar to healthy controls but less than their dominant limb.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

© 2020, Springer Nature

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Supportive Care in Cancer. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05365-5

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Funding Information

This study was funded by grant from the Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association for the purchase of the equipment used in this study.