Breast cancer surgery linked to swollen arm syndrome

August 6, 2013

Breast cancer survivors who have extensive surgery are four times more likely to develop the debilitating disorder arm lymphoedema, a QUT study has found.

The findings in a new paper "Incidence of unilateral arm lymphoedema after : a systematic review and meta-analysis" published in the prestigious journal The Lancet Oncology, reveal the invasiveness of surgery to treat breast cancer increases the risk of developing arm lymphoedema.

Lead author of the study Tracey DiSipio, from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said women who had undergone an axillary - an invasive surgery to remove lymph nodes under the arm - were four times more likely to suffer swollen or disfigured arms.

She said this was compared to women who had received a biopsy.

"Arm lymphoedema is typically characterised by swelling in one or both arms, causing pain, heaviness, tightness and a decreased range of motion," Dr DiSipio said.

"The appearance of the swollen or disfigured arms provides an ever-present reminder of breast cancer and often contributes to anxiety, depression and emotional distress in effected women."

Dr DiSipio said the study, a systematic review of the incidence of arm lymphoedema after breast cancer, also found that one in five women (21.4 per cent) would be diagnosed with the condition.

"This is a significant research finding and provides us with the most accurate incidence rate to date," she said.

"Until now the incidence rate has been reported anywhere from between zero to 94 per cent. With this information we can explore whether lymphoedema rates differ between ."

Dr DiSipio said the study also pinpointed a number of risk factors linked to arm lymphoedema.

"The risk factors increased when there was a lack of , or high body-mass index," she said.

"These factors are potential targets for future or for more effective management of the disorder."

Dr DiSipio said the results of the study added weight to calls to integrate prospective surveillance of arm lymphoedema into standard breast cancer care.

"Currently there are no standardised practices when it comes to detection and treatment of arm lymphoedema," she said.

"Given most patients present with the arm lymphoedema within the first two years after breast cancer, more frequent surveillance throughout this time is recommended."

Explore further: Study shows radiotherapy and surgery provide regional control for breast cancer patients

Related Stories

Study shows radiotherapy and surgery provide regional control for breast cancer patients

June 3, 2013
Final analysis of the EORTC 10981-22023 AMAROS (After Mapping of the Axilla: Radiotherapy Or Surgery?) trial has shown that both axillary lymph node dissection and axillary radiotherapy provide excellent regional control ...

Preventing the distress and pain of lymphoedema

March 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from the University of Sydney, together with Royal North Shore Hospital and the University of Queensland, have announced the largest study yet performed into early clinical detection of lymphoedema, ...

Less invasive surgery detects residual breast cancer in lymph nodes after chemotherapy

December 5, 2012
Most patients whose breast cancer has spread to their lymph nodes have most of the lymph nodes in their armpit area removed after chemotherapy to see if any cancer remains. A study conducted through the American College of ...

Breast cancer patients' fear of developing lymphedema far exceeds risk

February 25, 2013
Women who have had the lymph nodes under their arm surgically removed during breast cancer treatment are warned to avoid certain practices that can cause lymphedema—a condition that causes chronic, painless swelling in ...

Examination of lymph nodes provides more accurate breast cancer prognosis

July 29, 2013
After a breast cancer operation, the removed tumour is always examined, as its subtype can provide an indication of how aggressive the disease is. The patient's lymph nodes are not analysed in the same way. Yet the breast ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.