In older breast cancer survivors, the number of lymph nodes removed during surgery and the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes were the two factors most directly linked to the development of lymphedema, swelling of the arm and hand, according to a study from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“Lymphedema causes physical discomfort and disability, as well as a cosmetic deformity which can lead to anxiety, depression and emotional distress that can affect a woman’s activities of daily living and quality of life,” says lead author Tina Yen, M.D., M.S., a Medical College of Wisconsin surgical oncologist who practices at Froedtert Hospital, a major hospital affiliate. “For these reasons, lymphedema is probably the most feared complication among breast cancer survivors. A better understanding of its risk factors is needed to help improve outcomes.”
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