University of Vermont

Office of Health Promotion Research

OHPR Abstract 218

Abstract 2000-2008

Geller BM, Vacek PM, O'Brien P, Secker-Walker RH. Factors associated with arm swelling after breast cancer surgery. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Nov;12(9):921-30.

PURPOSE: As life expectancy improves for women with breast cancer, more women will be living with symptoms of lymphedema. This study reports the incidence of arm or hand swelling and associated risk factors in women with invasive breast cancer following surgery. METHODS: Data were obtained from baseline and follow-up interviews of women with invasive breast cancer (n = 145), and mammography and pathology records. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the probability of developing arm or hand swelling over time. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify risk factors for arm or hand swelling. RESULTS: Of women in this study, 38% self-reported arm or hand swelling. There was a significantly increased risk of arm swelling if women were under 50 years of age, had axillary node dissection, received chemotherapy, worked outside the home, and had a high household income. There was no association of body weight with swelling. A significantly decreased risk of arm swelling was found in women who were on treatment for high blood pressure. After adjustment for nodal dissection, only age had a significant independent effect. CONCLUSIONS: Our study highlights two important areas of future research that could reduce the incidence of lymphedema. There is a need to better understand the role that treatment for high blood pressure may play in protecting women from arm edema. Second, the potential effect of weight as a modifiable lymphedema risk factor needs to be studied in more detail in light of the conflicting results of different studies.

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