Lymphedema Affects Quality Of Life

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Lymphedema Affects Quality Of Life

Postby patoco » Sat May 12, 2007 3:24 am

Lymphedema Affects Quality Of Life

May 10, 2007


Almost one-third of young breast cancer survivors surveyed by
researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer said
their quality of life suffered because they experienced lymphedema, an
often debilitating consequence of breast cancer treatment.

The findings are significant because they point to the need for
preventive education, says principal investigator Electra Paskett,
associate director of population sciences at Ohio State's
Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"This is the first study in the United States to look at the
incidence, prevalence and persistence of lymphedema among young breast cancer survivors, and how having lymphedema negatively affects their quality of life," says Paskett. "We found that the women who reported persistent swelling of their arms or hands after surgery or radiation were more likely to report poorer quality of life."

The research involved 622 breast cancer survivors who were 45 years or
younger at diagnosis. They were monitored with semiannual
questionnaires for 36 months after breast cancer surgery to determine
the incidence of lymphedema, prevalence of swelling, factors
associated with each and quality of life.

The study is published in the April issue of the Journal of Cancer
Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

Lymphedema is a common complication of cancer therapy and is
characterized by an accumulation of lymphatic fluid, which causes
swelling, most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema can occur
anywhere lymph nodes have been surgically removed or lymph flow has
been disturbed.

The study found that 54 percent of participants reported at least one
incidence of swelling of the arm or hand within 36 months after
surgery, with 32 percent reporting persistent swelling. Swelling was
reported to in the upper arm by 43 percent of the women; in the hand
only by 34 percent; and in both arm and hand in 22 percent of

Factors associated with an increased risk of developing swelling
included having a greater number of lymph nodes removed, receiving
chemotherapy and being obese. Factors associated with persistent
swelling included having more lymph nodes removed and being obese.
Weight management may be a potential intervention for those at
greatest risk of lymphedema to maintain optimal health-related quality
of life among survivors, Paskett says.

Women who reported swelling had significantly lower quality of life
compared to women without swelling, Paskett says.

"These are the women we are most concerned about," says Paskett, a two- time breast cancer survivor who struggles with a mild case of
lymphedema. She does daily exercises and occasionally wears a pressure
sleeve and glove to control her swelling.

"If we can identify women who are at greatest risk of developing
lymphedema, then we can educate them about the problem, so they can
watch for symptoms and seek early treatment," Paskett says.

The majority of women in the study reported mild swelling. But even
that can interfere with daily activities and negatively affect quality
of life, she says.

"Some women must buy larger clothing because of the swelling, while
others can't wear rings or button their blouses because their fingers
are swollen," Paskett says. "For many, lymphedema is a constant
reminder that they had cancer."

Paskett also is the principal investigator of a major, multicenter
clinical trial that will enroll 500 women nationwide in the Lymphedema
and Education Awareness Program. The ongoing study will test a program
to prevent lymphedema in women who have been treated for breast

There is always a risk of developing lymphedema after the removal of
lymph nodes during breast cancer surgery, and the condition can
develop immediately, in months or even years later, Paskett says.

"It is important for women to recognize the signs and symptoms of
lymphedema and seek treatment immediately to lessen the severity,"
Paskett says.


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