Arm lymphedema a risk for breast cancer survivors

August 22, 2013

A recent study published in The Lancet Oncology looked at the likelihood of survivors developing arm lymphedema and found that roughly 20% of breast cancer survivors were likely to develop the condition.

 

A recent study published in The Lancet Oncology looked at the likelihood of survivors developing arm lymphedema and found that roughly 20% of breast cancer survivors were likely to develop the condition.

Funded by Australia’s The National Breast Cancer Foundation, researchers found 72 studies with a pooled estimate of 16.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 13.6–20.2) using Academic Search Elite, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Medline, published from January 1, 2000 to June 30, 2012, that studied the incidence or risk factors for arm lymphedema after breast cancer. Arm lymphedema incidence seemed to increase for up to 2 years after diagnosis or surgery in 24 studies with time since diagnosis or surgery of 12 to <24 months; (18.9%, 14.2–24.7).

In 9 studies, the risk was highest when the cancer had been assessed with more than one diagnostic method (28.2%, 11.8–53.5).  In 18 studies, risk of lymphedema was 4 times higher in women who underwent axillary lymph node dissection (19.9%, 13.5–28.2) than in those with sentinel-node biopsy (5.6%, 6.1–7.9). Risk factors with a high evidence level were being overweight and obese, and undergoing extensive surgery.

The researchers showed that at least 1 in 5 breast cancer survivors develop arm lymphedema. They urged the research community to continue looking at the contributing risk factors and to find prevention and management strategies.

 

 

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