Prevalence of lymphoedema more than five years after breast cancer treatment

T. Lopez Penha*, J.J.G. Slangen, E.M. Heuts, A.C. Voogd, M.F. von Meyenfeldt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Aim: A lack of consistency in the definition of breast cancer related lymphoedema (BCRL) and of uniform measurement criteria contribute to the wide prevalence range found in current literature. This report aims to describe the long-term prevalence of BCRL and secondly, to compare the long-term prevalence of BCRL when assessed by two objective measures and one subjective measure. Methods: The upper-limbs of 145 post-surgical breast cancer patients were evaluated for the presence of lymphoedema using the water displacement method. Two circumference methods and patient perceived swelling were applied secondarily for comparison. Limb measurements were performed once, more than five years after surgery. Results: The long-term prevalence of BCRL using water displacement was 8%. Prevalence varied when the sum of arm circumference (SOAC), the arm circumference and the self-report methods were used: 16,31 and 17% [P <0.001], respectively. Of the women identified with BCRL using the water displacement technique, 82% were detected with the SOAC method, 82% with the arm circumference method and 91% by self-report. Using water displacement as the gold standard the methods with the highest specificities were the SOAC (90%) and self-report method (89%), arm circumference resulted in a low specificity of 73%. Conclusion: The prevalence of BCRL more than five years after surgical treatment differs depending on the measuring method used. Our data underlines the necessity for consensus on the diagnostic criteria for BCRL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1059-1063
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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