Predictors of arm morbidity following breast cancer surgery



Objective: Arm morbidity post-breast cancer surgery is increasingly being recognized as a chronic problem for some women following breast cancer surgery. The purpose of this study was to examine demographic, disease, and treatment-related predictors of a comprehensive array of chronic arm morbidity (pain, lymphedema, functional disability, and range of motion) post-breast cancer surgery.

Methods: Women (n=316) with a non-metastatic primary diagnosis of breast cancer were accrued from cancer centers in four Canadian cities. Patients completed a clinical assessment and measures of arm morbidity at 6–12 months post-breast cancer surgery. The independent variables in the MANOVA to predict arm morbidity included: Lymph node management type, number of axillary nodes dissected, type of surgery, disease stage, presence of post-operative infection, radiation to the axilla, body mass index (BMI), assessment time post-surgery, education, and partner status.

Results: Pain was significantly predicted by axillary lymph node management, lack of a partner, and post-operative infection; lymphedema by axillary lymph node management, number of axillary nodes dissected, radiation to the axilla, and having a modified radical mastectomy; functional disability by post-operative infection and high BMI; and restricted external rotation by axillary lymph node management, low educational attainment, and advanced disease.

Conclusion: Comprehensive behavioral management and rehabilitation programs are needed to treat arm morbidity following breast cancer surgery. These programs should address the full scope of symptoms and associated psychosocial and functional sequelae. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.