Defining a threshold for intervention in breast cancer-related lymphedema: what level of arm volume increase predicts progression?

The purpose of this study is to evaluate arm volume measurements and clinico-pathologic characteristics of breast cancer patients to define a threshold for intervention in breast cancer-related lymphedema. We prospectively performed arm volume measurements on breast cancer patients using a Perometer...

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Published in: Breast cancer research and treatment Vol. 140; no. 3; p. 485
Main Authors: Specht, Michelle C, Miller, Cynthia L, Russell, Tara A, Horick, Nora, Skolny, Melissa N, O'Toole, Jean A, Jammallo, Lauren S, Niemierko, Andrzej, Sadek, Betro T, Shenouda, Mina N, Finkelstein, Dianne M, Smith, Barbara L, Taghian, Alphonse G
Format: Journal Article
Language: English
Published: Netherlands 08-01-2013
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Summary: The purpose of this study is to evaluate arm volume measurements and clinico-pathologic characteristics of breast cancer patients to define a threshold for intervention in breast cancer-related lymphedema. We prospectively performed arm volume measurements on breast cancer patients using a Perometer. Arm measurements were performed pre- and post-operatively, and change in arm volume was quantified using a relative volume change (RVC) equation. Patient and treatment risk factors were evaluated. Cox proportional hazards models with time-dependent covariates for RVC were used to evaluate whether RVC elevations of ≥3 to <5 % or ≥5 to <10 % occurring ≤3 months or >3 months after surgery were associated with progression to ≥10 % RVC. 1,173 patients met eligibility criteria with a median of 27 months post-operative follow-up. The cumulative incidence of ≥10 % RVC at 24 months was 5.26 % (95 % CI 4.01-6.88 %). By multivariable analysis, a measurement of ≥5 to <10 % RVC occurring >3 months after surgery was significantly associated with an increased risk of progression to ≥10 % RVC (HR 2.97, p < 0.0001), but a measurement of ≥3 to <5 % RVC during the same time period was not statistically significantly associated (HR 1.55, p = 0.10). Other significant risk factors included a measurement ≤3 months after surgery with RVC of ≥3 to <5 % (p = 0.007), ≥5 to <10 % (p < 0.0001), or ≥10 % (p = 0.023), axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) (p < 0.0001), and higher BMI at diagnosis (p = 0.0028). Type of breast surgery, age, number of positive or number of lymph nodes removed, nodal radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy were not significant (p > 0.05). Breast cancer patients who experience a relative arm volume increase of ≥3 to <5 % occurring >3 months after surgery do not have a statistically significant increase in risk of progression to ≥10 %, a common lymphedema criterion. Our data support utilization of a ≥5 to <10 % threshold for close monitoring or intervention, warranting further assessment. Additional risk factors for progression to ≥10 % include ALND, higher BMI, and post-operative arm volume elevation.
ISSN: 1573-7217