Early diagnosis, treatment, and Health-Related Quality of Life in women with mild Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema.

Katarina Blom

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

173 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Early diagnosis and treatment of Breast Cancer-Related
Lymphedema (BCRL) are important to prevent lymphedema progress and impact
on Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). The treatment includes self-care and
treatment with compression garment. In mild BCRL, the lymphedema can be local, without an increase in arm volume. Tissue Dielectric Constant (TDC), measuring local tissue water in skin and subcutis, had not been used for diagnosis and to evaluate treatment in mild BCRL before. Also, knowledge about the effect of wearing a compression garment and its impact on HRQOL was unknown. The overall aim of this thesis was to evaluate diagnostic methods, treatment, and HRQOL in women with mild BCRL.
Methods: Women treated with axillary node dissection and diagnosed with mild
BCRL were included. In paper I (n=72), the proportion of mild BCRL detected with
TDC and/or Water Displacement Method (WDM) in combination with skin
palpation at diagnosis were evaluated. Also, association between TDC and WDM
measurements and lymphedema related factors were examined. In paper II,
(n= 46),changes in local tissue water (TDC) and Lymphedema Relative Volume (LRV) measured with WDM after 1,2,3 and 6 months standard treatment were examined. In paper III, (n=70), differences between compression group (CG) and non compression group (NCG) in changes of local tissue water (TDC), LRV (WDM), and subjective symptoms after 1,2,3 and 6 months were investigated. Also, adherence to self-care at 6 months was examined. In paper IV, (n=51), difference between CG and NCG in disease specific HRQOL was investigated with the Lymphedema Quality of Life Inventory (LyQLI) at 6 months.
Results: The TDC method detected more patients with mild BCRL, earlier after
surgery and at a lower LRV compared to the WDM method, but both methods
together with skin palpation for diagnosis were needed. Also, there was a negative association between local tissue water and LRV (paper I). Both TDC and WDM could detect a significant reduction in BCRL over a 6 months period of standard treatment. The participants with BCRL, detected with TDC, decreased in local tissue water, but all participants had a similar decrease in LRV. Also, in a majority of participants, the site with the highest TDC ratio changed to another site (paper II). Early treatment with a compression garment for 6 months could prevent progression in mild BCRL, showing smaller proportion of progression in LRV, larger reduction in LRV and local tissue water, and early reduced experience of tension, compared to NCG. However, 43% in the NCG group did not show
progression and could manage without compression. Adherence to self-care was
comparable in both groups (paper III). The participants in both CG and NCG rated a high HRQOL, but the CG experienced a higher negative impact on HRQOL in the practical domain and in some of the items in the psychosocial domain compared to the NCG (paper IV).
Conclusions: TDC and WDM can be used together with skin palpation for early
diagnosis. Both methods could detect changes in mild BCRL during treatment and can be used to evaluate treatment. Early treatment with compression garment for 6 months could prevent progression of mild BCRL, but almost half of the participants in the NCG did not show progression. Wearing a compression
garment has a minor negative impact on HRQOL and needs to be considered in
relation to the preventive effect. The results have important clinical implications for diagnosing, treatment, clinical decision making and patient education in women with mild BCRL.
Translated title of the contributionTidig diagnos, behandling and Hälso-Relaterad Livskvalitet hos kvinnor med mindre bröstcancer-relaterade lymfödem.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Health Sciences
  • Brogårdh, Christina, Supervisor
  • Johansson, Karin, Assistant supervisor
  • Nilsson-Wikmar, Lena, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2022 Dec 5
Place of PublicationLund
ISBN (Print)978-91-8021-320-2
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2022-12-05
Time: 13:00
Place: Hörsal 01, Health Sciences Centre, Baravägen 3 i Lund. Join by Zoom: https://lu-se.zoom.us/j/66708402673
External reviewer(s)
Name: Ahlberg, Karin
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Sahlgrenska Akadmin, Göteborgs universitet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Physiotherapy

Free keywords

  • lymphedema
  • breast cancer
  • compression garment
  • Diagnosis
  • treatment
  • health-related quality of life


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