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Breast Cancer (Auckl). 2012;6:79-93. doi: 10.4137/BCBCR.S9362. Epub 2012 Jul 30.

Early contralateral shoulder-arm morbidity in breast cancer patients enrolled in a randomized trial of post-surgery radiation therapy.

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Breast Clinic, Oncological Surgery, UZ Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium.



Shoulder/arm morbidity is a common complication of breast cancer surgery and radiotherapy (RT), but little is known about acute contralateral morbidity.


Patients were 118 women enrolled in a RT trial. Arm volume and shoulder mobility were assessed before and 1-3 months after RT. Correlations and linear regression were used to analyze changes affecting ipsilateral and contralateral arms, and changes affecting relative interlimb differences (RID).


Changes affecting one limb correlated with changes affecting the other limb. Arm volume between the two limbs correlated (R = 0.57). Risk factors were weight increase and axillary dissection. Contralateral and ipsilateral loss of abduction strongly correlated (R = 0.78). Changes of combined RID exceeding 10% affected the ipsilateral limb in 25% of patients, and the contralateral limb in 18%. Aromatase inhibitor therapy was significantly associated with contralateral loss of abduction.


High incidence of early contralateral arm morbidity warrants further investigations.


breast cancer-related lymphedema; early breast cancer; image-guided radiation therapy; short-course radiation therapy; shoulder/arm morbidity

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