Role of physiotherapy and patient education in lymphedema control following breast cancer surgery

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Abstract

Introduction: This retrospective cohort study evaluated whether education in combination with physiotherapy can reduce the risk of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL). Methods: We analyzed 1,217 women diagnosed with unilateral breast cancer between January 2007 and December 2011 who underwent tumor resection and axillary lymph node dissection. The patients were divided into three groups: Group A (n=415), who received neither education nor physiotherapy postsurgery; Group B (n=672), who received an educational program on BCRL between Days 0 and 7 postsurgery; and Group C (n=130), who received an educational program on BCRL between Days 0 and 7 postsurgery, followed by a physiotherapy program. All patients were monitored until October 2013 to determine whether BCRL developed. BCRL risk factors were evaluated using Cox proportional hazards models. Results: During the follow-up, 188 patients (15.4%) developed lymphedema, including 77 (18.6%) in Group A, 101 (15.0%) in Group B, and 10 (7.7%) in Group C (P=0.010). The median period from surgery to lymphedema was 0.54 years (interquartile range =0.18–1.78). The independent risk factors for BCRL included positive axillary lymph node invasion, a higher (>20) number of dissected axillary lymph nodes, and having undergone radiation therapy, whereas receiving an educational program followed by physiotherapy was a protective factor against BCRL (hazard ratio =0.35, 95% confidence interval =0.18–0.67, P=0.002). Conclusion: Patient education that begins within the first week postsurgery and is followed by physiotherapy is effective in reducing the risk of BCRL in women with breast cancer.

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Lu, S. R., Hong, R. B., Chou, W., & Hsiao, P. C. (2015). Role of physiotherapy and patient education in lymphedema control following breast cancer surgery. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 11, 319–327. https://doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S77669

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