Preoperative assessment enables the early diagnosis and successful treatment of lymphedema

Authors


  • The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

  • This article is a US government work and, as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

The incidence of breast cancer (BC)-related lymphedema (LE) ranges from 7% to 47%. Successful management of LE relies on early diagnosis using sensitive measurement techniques. In the current study, the authors demonstrated the effectiveness of a surveillance program that included preoperative limb volume measurement and interval postoperative follow-up to detect and treat subclinical LE.

METHODS

LE was identified in 43 of 196 women who participated in a prospective BC morbidity trial. Limb volume was measured preoperatively and at 3-month intervals after surgery. If an increase >3% in upper limb (UL) volume developed compared with the preoperative volume, then a diagnosis of LE was made, and a compression garment intervention was prescribed for 4 weeks. Upon reduction of LE, garment wear was continued only during strenuous activity, with symptoms of heaviness, or with visible swelling. Women returned to the 3-month interval surveillance pathway. Statistical analysis was a repeated-measures analysis of variance by time and limb (P ≤ .001) comparing the LE cohort with an age-matched control group.

RESULTS

The time to onset of LE averaged 6.9 months postoperatively. The mean (±standard deviation) affected limb volume increase was 83 mL (±119 mL; 6.5% ± 9.9%) at LE onset (P = .005) compared with baseline. After the intervention, a statistically significant mean 48 mL (±103 mL; 4.1% ± 8.8%) volume decrease was realized (P < .0001). The mean duration of the intervention was 4.4 weeks (±2.9 weeks). Volume reduction was maintained at an average follow-up of 4.8 months (±4.1 months) after the intervention.

CONCLUSIONS

A short trial of compression garments effectively treated subclinical LE. Cancer 2008. Published 2008 by the American Cancer Society.

Ancillary