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Cancer. 2018 May 1;124(9):1929-1937. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31239. Epub 2018 Feb 13.

Lymphedema in ovarian cancer survivors: Assessing diagnostic methods and the effects of physical activity.

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Cooper University Hospital, Camden, New Jersey.
Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut.
Yale Cancer Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut.
Yale School of Nursing, West Haven, Connecticut.



Lymphedema is a poorly understood side effect of gynecologic cancer treatment. This study was designed to determine the prevalence of lower limb lymphedema (LLL) in a sample of ovarian cancer survivors via 3 different diagnostic methods and to assess the effect of a randomized exercise intervention.


Physically inactive ovarian cancer survivors (n = 95) were enrolled in a 6-month randomized trial of exercise (primarily brisk walking) versus attention control. LLL was measured at baseline and 6-month visits via a self-report questionnaire, optoelectronic perometry, and an evaluation by a certified lymphedema specialist.


LLL prevalence ranged from 21% to 38% according to the diagnostic method, and there was substantial agreement between the self-report questionnaire and the lymphedema specialist evaluation (κ = 0.61). There was no agreement between the evaluation with optoelectronic perometry and the specialist evaluation. With LLL defined by any method, the baseline prevalence was 38% in both groups. At 6 months, both groups experienced a decreased LLL prevalence: 28% in the exercise group and 35% in the control group. There was no difference in the change in lymphedema prevalence between the 2 groups (P = .64). Body mass index was a significant predictor of LLL.


With a potential prevalence of LLL as high as 40%, further evaluation of diagnostic methods is required to better characterize this side effect of ovarian cancer treatment. No adverse effect of exercise on LLL was found. Further research is strongly needed to evaluate predictors of LLL and the effects of exercise on LLL in order to develop effective physical activity recommendations for women with ovarian cancer. Cancer 2018;124:1929-37. © 2018 American Cancer Society.


exercise; lymphedema; ovarian cancer; perometer; physical activity

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