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Prevalence of Lymphedema in Breast Cancer

Last week one of the members of our online support group Advocates for Lymphedema asked if there were statistics for the incendence of secondary lymphedema, especially arm lymphedema in breast cancer.

As time has passed and the success of breast cancer treatment has improved, the prevelance of secondary arm lymphedema among breast cancer survivors has increased.

Hopefully, as improved diagnostic techniques are developed, we will see a decline.

What is included in our page are the available studies and statistics.. As updated information becomes available, we will update our page.


The epidemiology of arm and hand swelling in premenopausal breast cancer survivors.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Apr

Paskett ED, Naughton MJ, McCoy TP, Case LD, Abbott JM. Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, A356 Starling-Loving Hall, 320 West 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

BACKGROUND: Breast cancer survivors suffer from lymphedema of the arm and/or hand. Accurate estimates of the incidence and prevalence of lymphedema are lacking, as are the effects of this condition on overall quality of life.

METHODS: Six hundred twenty-two breast cancer survivors (age, <or=45 years at diagnosis) were followed with semiannual questionnaires for 36 months after surgery to determine the incidence of lymphedema, prevalence of persistent swelling, factors associated with each, and quality of life.

RESULTS: Of those contacted and eligible for the study, 93% agreed to participate. Fifty-four percent reported arm or hand swelling by 36 months after surgery, with 32% reporting persistent swelling. Swelling was reported to occur in the upper arm (43%), the hand only (34%), and both arm and hand (22%). Factors associated with an increased risk of developing swelling included having a greater number of lymph nodes removed [hazards ratio (HR), 1.02; P < 0.01], receiving chemotherapy (HR, 1.76; P = 0.02), being obese (HR, 1.51 versus normal weight; P = 0.01), and being married (HR, 1.36; P = 0.05). Factors associated with persistent swelling were having more lymph nodes removed (odds ratio, 1.03; P = 0.01) and being obese (odds ratio, 2.24 versus normal weight; P < 0.01). Women reporting swelling had significantly lower quality of life as measured by the functional assessment of cancer therapy-breast total score and the SF-12 physical and mental health subscales (P < 0.01 for each).

CONCLUSIONS: Lymphedema occurs among a substantial proportion of young breast cancer survivors. Weight management may be a potential intervention for those at greatest risk of lymphedema to maintain optimal health-related quality of life among survivors.

Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention

Lymphedema in breast cancer survivors: assessment and information provision in a specialized breast unit

Patient Educ Couns. 2007 Jun

Bani HA, Fasching PA, Lux MM, Rauh C, Willner M, Eder I, Loehberg C, Schrauder M, Beckmann MW, Bani MR. Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Erlangen University Hospital, Universitaetsstrasse 21-23, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Lymphedema; Radiation; Compliance; Lymph drainage; Compression garment OBJECTIVE: Assessment and adequate treatment of lymphedema is required by the European Society of Mastology. The purpose of our study was the evaluation of self-reported incidences of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors and the effect of providing the patients with information about lymphedema on the extent to which lymph-drainage massage services and compression garments were used.

METHODS: A total of 742 breast cancer survivors were analysed in this questionnaire-based survey. The associations between lymphedema and the patients' medical history; morbidity located in the breast, axilla, and arm; the amount of information the patients had received concerning lymphedema; and the extent to which lymph-drainage massage services and compression garments were analyzed.

RESULTS: 31.67% of the patients stated to have lymphedema. Radiotherapy was identified as a significant risk factor. Pain, paresthesia, and functional limitations were associated with the occurrence of lymphedema. The only independent positive predictive factor found to be associated with the use of lymph-drainage massage services (OR 5.74) was the provision of information about the condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported assessment of lymphedema is feasible. The observed lymphedema incidence of approximately 30% may be able to serve as a basis for benchmarking in quality-assurance procedures at breast centers.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Control mechanisms are required to assess if the indication for lymphdrainage is adequate and the compliance to this subject is sufficient.

Science Direct

Breast cancer-related lymphedema.

Mayo Clin Proc. 2005 Nov

FROM 2005

Morrell RM, Halyard MY, Schild SE, Ali MS, Gunderson LL, Pockaj BA. Department of Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Scottsdale, Arizona 85259, USA.

Every year in the United States, breast cancer is diagnosed in more than 200,000 women. Because of the prevalence of breast cancer, treatment-related sequelae are of Importance to many survivors of the disease. One such sequela is upper extremity lymphedema, which occurs when fluid accumulates in the Interstitial space and causes enlargement and usually a feeling of heaviness in the limb. Axillary surgery contributes considerably to the incidence of lymphedema, with the incidence and severity of swelling related to the number of lymph nodes removed.

Lymphedema after standard axillary lymph node dissection can occur in up to approximately 50% of patients.

However, the risk of lymphedema is decreased substantially with newer sentinel lymph node sampling procedures. Adjuvant radiotherapy to the breast or lymph nodes increases the risk of lymphedema, which has been reported in 9% to 40% of these patients. Management of lymphedema requires a multidisciplinary approach to minimize the effect on the patient's quality of life. This review presents an overview of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer-related lymphedema.

PMID: 16295027 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Incidence and risk of arm oedema following treatment for breast cancer: a three-year follow-up study.

QJM. 2005 May

Clark B, Sitzia J, Harlow W. Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust, Worthing Hospital, West Sussex, UK.

BACKGROUND: Breast-cancer-related lymphoedema is a chronic condition with estimates of incidence ranging from 6 to 83%. Lymphoedema has been associated with a variety of risk factors. However, this evidence has suffered from methodological weaknesses, and so has had little impact upon clinical practice.

AIM: To examine incidence and risk factors [hospital skin puncture, surgical procedure, Body Mass Index (BMI), age, axillary node status, number of axillary nodes removed, radiotherapy and surgery on dominant side] for breast cancer-related arm lymphoedema.

DESIGN: Prospective observational study, with measurement of limbs pre-operatively and at regular intervals post-operatively.

METHODS: We recruited 251 women who had surgical treatment for breast cancer that involved sampling, excision or biopsy of axillary nodes, aged > or = 18 years, and free of advanced disease and psychological co-morbidities. Of these, 188 (74.9%) were available for 3-year follow-up.

RESULTS: At follow-up, 39 (20.7%) had developed lymphoedema. Hospital skin puncture (vs. none) (RR 2.44, 95%CI 1.33-4.47), mastectomy (vs. wide local excision or lumpectomy) (RR 2.04, 95%CI 1.18-3.54), and BMI > or = 26 (vs. BMI 19-26) (RR 2.02, 95%CI 1.11-3.68) were the only significant risk factors.

DISCUSSION: Lymphoedema remains a significant clinical problem, with 1:5 women in this sample developing the condition following treatment for breast cancer. Risk factors are identified in the development of lymphoedema that should be taken into account in clinical practice.

Oxford Journals

Lymphedema following breast cancer treatment, including sentinel lymph node biopsy

Lymphology. 2004 Jun

Armer J, Fu MR, Wainstock JM, Zagar E, Jacobs LK. MU Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri-Columbia, Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.

To compare the occurrence, signs, and symptoms of lymphedema (LE) the arms of women after axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), combined SLNB and ALND (Both), or neither as part of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, a concurrent descriptive-comparative cross-sectional four-group design with retrospective chart review was carried out. In a convenience sample of 102 women treated for breast cancer and receiving follow-up care at a midwestern United States cancer center, sequential circumferential measurements at five selected anatomical sites along both arms and hands were used to determine the presence of LE (> or = 2 cm differences between sites). Participants self-reported LE- related signs and symptoms by interview and completion of the Lymphedema and Breast Cancer Questionnaire (LBCQ). Retrospective chart review was carried out to verify lymph node-related diagnostic and treatment procedures. Based on node group,

LE occurred as follows: 43.3% (29 of 67) of women who underwent ALND alone; 22.2% (2 of 9) of those who underwent SLNB alone; 25.0% (3 of 12) of those with combined SLNB and ALND; and 22.2% (2 of 9) with neither SLNB nor ALND. LE-related symptoms were reported by women who underwent ALND alone, SLND alone, combined SLNB and ALND, and neither.

Among the node groups, three symptoms were more common: larger arm size, firmness/tightness in past year, and numbness in past year. We conclude that circumferential measurements of the upper arm and forearm may be critical for distinguishing LE from no LE. Overall, the proportion of women who experienced LE-related signs and symptoms was higher among women who underwent ALND versus SLNB. However, numbness and tenderness frequently were reported by those undergoing ALND, SLNB or both; and by women without LE. It is possible that some frequently occurring symptoms, such as numbness and tenderness, may be related to breast cancer surgery and not LE. Findings from this study can assist health professionals in educating women with breast cancer about LE risk factors, as well as early detection and management of LE by using the LBCQ and sequential circumferential arm measurements to evaluate limb changes subjectively and objectively concurrent with each breast cancer survivor's follow-up care.

PMID: 15328760 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Randomized multicenter trial of sentinel node biopsy versus standard axillary treatment in operable breast cancer: the ALMANAC Trial.

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006 May

Mansel RE, Fallowfield L, Kissin M, Goyal A, Newcombe RG, Dixon JM, Yiangou C, Horgan K, Bundred N, Monypenny I, England D, Sibbering M, Abdullah TI, Barr L, Chetty U, Sinnett DH, Fleissig A, Clarke D, Ell PJ. Department of Surgery, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.

BACKGROUND: Sentinel lymph node biopsy in women with operable breast cancer is routinely used in some countries for staging the axilla despite limited data from randomized trials on morbidity and mortality outcomes. We conducted a multicenter randomized trial to compare quality-of-life outcomes between patients with clinically node-negative invasive breast cancer who received sentinel lymph node biopsy and patients who received standard axillary treatment.

METHODS: The primary outcome measures were arm and shoulder morbidity and quality of life. From November 1999 to October 2003, 1031 patients were randomly assigned to undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy (n = 515) or standard axillary surgery (n = 516). Patients with sentinel lymph node metastases proceeded to delayed axillary clearance or received axillary radiotherapy (depending on the protocol at the treating institution). Intention-to-treat analyses of data at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery are presented. All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: The relative risks of any lymphedema and sensory loss for the sentinel lymph node biopsy group compared with the standard axillary treatment group at 12 months were 0.37 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.23 to 0.60; absolute rates: 5% versus 13%) and 0.37 (95% CI = 0.27 to 0.50; absolute rates: 11% versus 31%), respectively. Drain usage, length of hospital stay, and time to resumption of normal day-to-day activities after surgery were statistically significantly lower in the sentinel lymph node biopsy group (all P < .001), and axillary operative time was reduced (P = .055). Overall patient-recorded quality of life and arm functioning scores were statistically significantly better in the sentinel lymph node biopsy group throughout (all P < or = .003). These benefits were seen with no increase in anxiety levels in the sentinel lymph node biopsy group (P > .05).

CONCLUSION: Sentinel lymph node biopsy is associated with reduced arm morbidity and better quality of life than standard axillary treatment and should be the treatment of choice for patients who have early-stage breast cancer with clinically negative nodes.

Oxford Journals

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prevalence_of_lymphedema_in_breast_cancer.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)