Upper-Limb Disability and the Severity of Lymphedema Reduce the Quality of Life of Patients with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema

Breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) is characterized by arm swelling, pain, and discomfort, reducing the quality of life (QoL) of affected individuals. BRCL is caused via the blockage or disruption of the lymphatic vessels following cancer treatments, leading to an accumulation of fluid in the affected arm. While current BCRL rehabilitation treatments seek to reduce arm swelling, our study aimed to examine the impact of both the magnitude of lymphedema (ΔVolume) and arm disability on three dimensions of QoL: social, physical, and psychological. Using the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire (DASH) and the Upper Limb Lymphedema 27 questionnaire (ULL) in a group of 30 patients, we found that the magnitude of lymphedema (ΔVolume) was associated with the social dimension of QoL (r = 0.37, p = 0.041), but not with other dimensions. On the other hand, arm disability was associated with all evaluated dimensions of QoL (social, physical, and psychological: p < 0.001, p = 0.019, and p = 0.050 (borderline), respectively). These findings suggest that BCRL rehabilitation strategies should not only aim to reduce the magnitude of lymphedema but should also seek to improve or preserve arm functionality to enhance the QoL of BCRL patients.
Breast neoplasms, Disability evaluation, Breast cancer-related lymphedema