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Eur J Cancer. 2001 May;37(8):991-9.

Risk, severity and predictors of physical and psychological morbidity after axillary lymph node dissection for breast cancer.

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Section of Clinical Health Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands.


The aim of this study was to investigate the nature and severity of the arm complaints among breast cancer patients after axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) and to study the effects of this treatment-related morbidity on daily life and well-being. 400 women, who underwent ALND as part of breast cancer surgery, filled out a treatment-specific quality of life questionnaire. The mean time since ALND was 4.7 years (range 0.3-28 years). More than 20% of patients reported pain, numbness, or loss of strength and 9% reported severe oedema. None of the complaints appeared to diminish over time. Irradiation of the axilla and supraclavicular irradiation were associated with a 3.57-fold higher risk of oedema (odds ratio (OR) 3.57; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.66-7.69) causing many patients to give up leisure activities or sport. Women who underwent irradiation of the breast or chest wall more often reported to have a sensitive scar than women who did not receive radiotherapy. Women <45 years of age had an approximately 6 times higher risk of numbness of the arm (OR 6.49; 95% CI 2.58-16.38) compared with those > or = 65 years of age; they also encountered more problems doing their household chores. The results of the present study support the introduction of less invasive techniques for the staging of the axilla, sentinel node biopsy being the most promising.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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