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Breast cancer patients' fear of developing lymphedema far exceeds risk
Date:2/25/2013

5 percent of women who undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB)a less extensive procedure in which only a few lymph nodes closest to the breast are taken out and analyzed.

To document the lymphedema rate, patient worry, and risk-reduction behaviors in women undergoing breast cancer surgery, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Florida followed 120 women, ages 52-68, for 12 months. Of those women, 53 underwent ALND and 67 had SLNB. The same two clinicians saw all patients postoperatively at one-, six-, and 12-month intervals. During these visits, the women completed questionnaires about their lymphedema risk-reduction behaviors, and assessments of their fear and worry about developing the condition.

Researchers found that 75 percent of women who had ALND, and 52 percent of women who had SLNB, worried about getting lymphedema. While lymph node removal can increase the chance of developing this complication, the study results showed that only 19 percent of those who had ALND actually developed lymphedema, and only 3 percent of those who underwent SLNB got it. The study also showed that at 12 months, the extent of axillary surgery (the number of nodes taken out in the armpit) was the only significant risk for developing lymphedema. Age, weight, type of breast operation (breast-conserving or mastectomy), or radiation were not linked to an increase in lymphedema.

What's more, researchers found that the majority of women adopted as many as five precautionary behaviors as early as six months after breast cancer operations and maintained these behaviors long term despite their actual risk-meaning they undertook these measures regardless of whether they had undergone ALND or SLNB and their course of treatment (radiation and adjuvant chemotherapy).

The investigators say that future research should be aimed at better predicting which women will develop lymphedema, thus allowing for targeted prevention and intervention strategies and indi
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Contact: Sally Garneski
pressinquiry@facs.org
312-202-5409
American College of Surgeons
Source:Eurekalert

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