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J Cancer Surviv. 2008 Dec;2(4):233-42. doi: 10.1007/s11764-008-0065-y. Epub 2008 Sep 16.

Arm/hand swelling and perceived functioning among breast cancer survivors 12 years post-diagnosis: CALGB 79804.

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1
Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, A356 Starling-Loving Hall, 320 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH, USA.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Lymphedema is an under-reported and debilitating consequence of axillary node dissection among breast cancer survivors. This study describes the characteristics of arm and hand swelling in relation to perceived physical and mental health functioning among breast cancer survivors 9-16 years post-diagnosis who previously participated in a clinical trial coordinated by the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB 8541).

METHODS:

Eligible survivors of CALGB 8541 completed questionnaires assessing demographics, arm/hand swelling, perceived physical functioning, and mental health.

RESULTS:

Two hundred forty-five women (94% white, mean age = 63, on average 12.4 years post-diagnosis) completed questionnaires (participation rate = 78%). Seventy-five women (31%) reported arm/hand swelling since their surgery. Of these women, 76% reported current swelling and half reported constant swelling, mainly in the upper arm. Swelling was reported as mild or moderate in 88% of the women. Women who reported severe swelling had significantly worse physical functioning and trended toward worse depressive symptoms and poorer mental health (lower mental SF-36 scores) as well. Activity-limiting swelling was also significantly associated with worse physical functioning. Although swelling interfered with wearing clothing (36%) and perceptions about general appearance (32%), only 37% of women sought treatment for swelling.

CONCLUSIONS:

Arm/hand swelling is a chronic problem for a subgroup of long-term survivors of breast cancer, negatively affecting physical functioning.

IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS:

Educational efforts are needed as part of a comprehensive survivorship care plan to raise awareness about lymphedema so that survivors may identify this complication, seek treatment early, and potentially improve their physical functioning.

PMID:
18792786
PMCID:
PMC3910496
DOI:
10.1007/s11764-008-0065-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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