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Lymphedema Prominent in Early Breast Cancer Survivors

Last Updated: November 18, 2010.

The incidence of breast cancer-related lymphedema is fairly high in early breast cancer survivors, and being African-American or more educated is related to a higher risk, according to research published in the November issue of the Archives of Surgery.

THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) is fairly high in early breast cancer survivors, and being African-American or more educated is related to a higher risk, according to research published in the November issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Marilyn L. Kwan, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues followed 997 women with primary invasive breast cancer to establish the incidence of BCRL in early survivorship and determine possible demographic, lifestyle, and clinical factors that may be associated with development of BCRL.

The researchers found that 133 of the women (13.3 percent) had indications for BCRL and the mean time to diagnosis was 8.3 months. African-American race and higher education levels were associated with an increased risk, as was removal of at least one lymph node. Obesity at time of cancer diagnosis also suggested an elevated risk.

"Considering the functional and psychosocial effects of developing BCRL, instituting educational programs that include a detailed clinical profile of identified risk factors before surgery might lead to improved prevention and treatment of this debilitating condition," the authors conclude.

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