Breast cancer related upper extremity lymphedema (BCRL) reduces the quality of life of those who have had surgery for breast cancer. The aim of this study is to evaluate the risk factors for BCRL and determine whether immediate autologous tissue breast reconstruction is one of them. A case control study was conducted comparing patients with BCRL (n=97) to surgically treated breast cancer patients without BCRL (control, n=126). The groups were matched for age, type of breast surgery and radiation therapy. Postoperative upper extremity infection, body mass index (BMI), occupation (level of hand-use), and immediate autologous tissue breast reconstruction were investigated as a risk factor of BCRL. Mastectomy was performed on 47.6 % (n=60) and 37.2% (n=36) of patients in the control and the BCRL groups, respectively. Eight patients (13.3%) had immediate autologous tissue breast reconstruction in the control mastectomy group. Six of 36 BCRL patients (16.7%) underwent mastectomy with immediate autologous tissue breast reconstruction. There was no significant difference between groups with respect to incidence or method of immediate reconstruction (p=0.65). Patient occupation (level of hand use) was found to be positively correlated to development of BCRL (p=0.0001). Upper extremity infection rate was 22.7% in the BCRL group and 4.0% in the controls (p=0.0001). The mean BMI in the control and BCRL groups 26.8 kg/m2 and 29.1kg/m2, respectively (p=0.003). In conclusion, in this study characteristics positively associated with development of BCRL included occupation, infection, and increased BMI. Immediate reconstruction of the breast was not found as a risk factor for BCRL. However larger studies are needed, to further evaluate the effect of breast reconstruction on BCRL.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.