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Breast. 2001 Dec;10(6):515-22.

Prevalence of self-reported arm morbidity following treatment for breast cancer in the Australian Breast Cancer Family Study.

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  • 1Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Population-based women (n=1049) with breast cancer diagnosed mainly between 1996 and 1998, when aged 20-59 years, were mailed a questionnaire seeking information about self-reported shoulder stiffness and swelling, numbness and pain/ache in the arm following treatment (excluding 6 months from diagnosis). Of the 809 who completed the survey, approximately seven in eight experienced at least one symptom, one in six reported all four symptoms, and one in three considered that their arm morbidity interfered substantially with activities of daily living. Arm swelling occurred at some time in 39% of women, was present in 20% 1 year, and in 29% 4 years, after diagnosis. The prevalence of arm swelling was higher in women with axillary node dissection (OR=2.4; 95% Cl 1.0-5.6), and was increased in a women with a higher body mass index (P=0.02) and less education (P=0.01), but was not related to age, number of nodes excised or self-reports of radiation or type of surgery.


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