Short- and long-term recovery of upper limb function after axillary lymph node dissection

Authors

  • N. DEVOOGDT pt , msc ,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Physiotherapy – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, and Department of Health Care Sciences – University College of Antwerp, Antwerp
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  • M. VAN KAMPEN pt , professor ,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Physiotherapy – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
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  • M.R. CHRISTIAENS md , professor ,

    1. Multidisciplinary Breast Centre – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven
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  • T. TROOSTERS pt , professor ,

    1. Department of Physiotherapy – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
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  • W. PIOT pt , msc ,

    1. Department of Physiotherapy – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven
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  • N. BEETS pt , msc ,

    1. Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
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  • S. NYS pt , msc ,

    1. Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
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  • R. GOSSELINK pt , professor

    1. Department of Physiotherapy – University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
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Marijke Van Kampen, Physical Therapist, University Hospitals Leuven, Department of Physiotherapy, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium (e-mail: marijke.vankampen@uzleuven.be);

Nele Devoogdt, Physical Therapist, University Hospitals Leuven, Department of Physiotherapy, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium (e-mail: nele.devoogdt@artesis.be).

Abstract

DEVOOGDT N., VAN KAMPEN M., CHRISTIAENS M.R., TROOSTERS T., PIOT W., BEETS N., NYS S. & GOSSELINK R. (2011) European Journal of Cancer Care20, 77–86
Short- and long-term recovery of upper limb function after axillary lymph node dissection

All breast cancer patients, suspected with lymph node invasion, need an axillary lymph node dissection. This study investigated the short- and long-term effects of the treatment for breast cancer on shoulder mobility, development of lymphoedema, pain and activities of daily living. Patients who had a modified radical mastectomy (33%) or a breast-conserving procedure (67%) in combination with axillary lymph node dissection were included. Shoulder mobility, lymphoedema, pain and activities of daily living were evaluated at 3 months and at 3.4 years after surgery. At long term, 31% of the patients experienced impaired shoulder mobility, 18% developed lymphoedema, 79% had pain and 51% mentioned impaired daily activities. Between 3 months and 3.4 years after surgery, impaired shoulder mobility decreased from 57% to 31%. The incidence of lymphoedema increased from 4% to 18%. Patients experienced an equal amount of pain but fewer problems with daily activities. At 3.4 years, no significant differences between mastectomy and breast-conserving procedure were found. In conclusion, at long term, significant number of breast cancer survivors still had impaired shoulder mobility, developed lymphoedema, had pain and experienced difficulties during daily activities. Shoulder mobility, pain and daily activities evolved positively, while the incidence of lymphoedema increased.

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