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      Role of physiotherapy and patient education in lymphedema control following breast cancer surgery

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          This retrospective cohort study evaluated whether education in combination with physiotherapy can reduce the risk of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL).


          We analyzed 1,217 women diagnosed with unilateral breast cancer between January 2007 and December 2011 who underwent tumor resection and axillary lymph node dissection. The patients were divided into three groups: Group A (n=415), who received neither education nor physiotherapy postsurgery; Group B (n=672), who received an educational program on BCRL between Days 0 and 7 postsurgery; and Group C (n=130), who received an educational program on BCRL between Days 0 and 7 postsurgery, followed by a physiotherapy program. All patients were monitored until October 2013 to determine whether BCRL developed. BCRL risk factors were evaluated using Cox proportional hazards models.


          During the follow-up, 188 patients (15.4%) developed lymphedema, including 77 (18.6%) in Group A, 101 (15.0%) in Group B, and 10 (7.7%) in Group C ( P=0.010). The median period from surgery to lymphedema was 0.54 years (interquartile range =0.18–1.78). The independent risk factors for BCRL included positive axillary lymph node invasion, a higher (>20) number of dissected axillary lymph nodes, and having undergone radiation therapy, whereas receiving an educational program followed by physiotherapy was a protective factor against BCRL (hazard ratio =0.35, 95% confidence interval =0.18–0.67, P=0.002).


          Patient education that begins within the first week postsurgery and is followed by physiotherapy is effective in reducing the risk of BCRL in women with breast cancer.

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          Most cited references 27

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          The Nottingham Prognostic Index in primary breast cancer.

          In 1982 we constructed a prognostic index for patients with primary, operable breast cancer. This index was based on a retrospective analysis of 9 factors in 387 patients. Only 3 of the factors (tumour size, stage of disease, and tumour grade) remained significant on multivariate analysis. The index was subsequently validated in a prospective study of 320 patients. We now present the results of applying this prognostic index to all of the first 1,629 patients in our series of operable breast cancer up to the age of 70. We have used the index to define three subsets of patients with different chances of dying from breast cancer: 1) good prognosis, comprising 29% of patients with 80% 15-year survival; 2) moderate prognosis, 54% of patients with 42% 15-year survival; 3) poor prognosis, 17% of patients with 13% 15-year survival. The 15-year survival of an age-matched female population was 83%.
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            Lymphedema in a cohort of breast carcinoma survivors 20 years after diagnosis.

            To the authors' knowledge, there are no long-term cohort studies of lymphedema, despite the substantial morbidity of arm swelling. The goal of this study was to identify prevalence of breast carcinoma-related lymphedema, time of onset, and associated predictive factors. A cohort of 923 women consecutively treated with mastectomy and complete axillary dissection at our center between 1976 and 1978 was observed intensively for 20 years. Two hundred sixty-three study subjects (28.5%) who were alive and recurrence free constituted the cohort for the current study. A subset of 52 women (20% of study population) with contralateral mastectomy was analyzed separately. Subjects reported circumferential arm measurements taken using a validated instrument. In addition to providing analysis of clinical and treatment variables, this study is the first to the authors' knowledge to analyze possible etiologic factors in the posttreatment years, such as occupation, general physical activity, and sports/leisure activities. Univariate and multivariate analytic methods were used. At 20 years after treatment, 49% (128 of 263) reported the sensation of lymphedema. Arm swelling measurements were severe (> or = 2.0 in [5.08 cm]; patients reported measurement in inches) for 13% (33 of 263 women). Seventy-seven percent (98 of 128) noted onset within 3 years after the operation; the remaining percentage developed arm swelling at a rate of almost 1% per year. Of the 15 potential predictive factors analyzed, only 2 were statistically significantly associated with lymphedema: arm infection/injury and weight gain since operation (P < 0.001 and P = 0.02, respectively). This defined cohort, treated by axillary dissection 20 years ago, documents the high prevalence of lymphedema and its time course. Two significantly associated factors, both potentially controllable, are identified. The current study provides further support for treatments that limit lymph node dissection. The authors are prospectively evaluating patients undergoing sentinel lymph node biopsy. Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.
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              Effectiveness of early physiotherapy to prevent lymphoedema after surgery for breast cancer: randomised, single blinded, clinical trial

              Objective To determine the effectiveness of early physiotherapy in reducing the risk of secondary lymphoedema after surgery for breast cancer. Design Randomised, single blinded, clinical trial. Setting University hospital in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain. Participants 120 women who had breast surgery involving dissection of axillary lymph nodes between May 2005 and June 2007. Intervention The early physiotherapy group was treated by a physiotherapist with a physiotherapy programme including manual lymph drainage, massage of scar tissue, and progressive active and action assisted shoulder exercises. This group also received an educational strategy. The control group received the educational strategy only. Main outcome measure Incidence of clinically significant secondary lymphoedema (>2 cm increase in arm circumference measured at two adjacent points compared with the non-affected arm). Results 116 women completed the one year follow-up. Of these, 18 developed secondary lymphoedema (16%): 14 in the control group (25%) and four in the intervention group (7%). The difference was significant (P=0.01); risk ratio 0.28 (95% confidence interval 0.10 to 0.79). A survival analysis showed a significant difference, with secondary lymphoedema being diagnosed four times earlier in the control group than in the intervention group (intervention/control, hazard ratio 0.26, 95% confidence interval 0.09 to 0.79). Conclusion Early physiotherapy could be an effective intervention in the prevention of secondary lymphoedema in women for at least one year after surgery for breast cancer involving dissection of axillary lymph nodes. Trial registration Current controlled trials ISRCTN95870846.

                Author and article information

                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Dove Medical Press
                25 February 2015
                : 11
                : 319-327
                [1 ]Department of Neurology, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
                [2 ]Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Chi-Mei Medical Center Liouying Campus, Tainan, Taiwan
                [3 ]Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Chi-Mei Medical Center, Tainan, Taiwan
                [4 ]Department of Recreation and Health Care Management, Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, Tainan, Taiwan
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Pei-Chi Hsiao, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Chi-Mei Medical Center, No 901, Zhonghua Road, Yongkang District, Tainan 71004, Taiwan, Tel +886 6 281 2811 ext 53745, Email peichi1227@ 123456gmail.com
                © 2015 Lu et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research


                education, physical therapy, lymphedema, breast cancer


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