Methods for quantifying breast cancer-related lymphedema in patients undergoing a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy

Lymphology. 2021;54(3):113-121.


Patients treated for breast cancer are at risk of developing breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL). A significant proportion of patients treated for breast cancer are opting to undergo a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). Currently, it remains unclear as to whether the relative volume change (RVC) equation may be used as an alternative to the weight adjusted change (WAC) equation to quantify BCRL in patients who undergo CPM. In order to simplify BCRL screening, our cohort of patients who underwent a CPM (n=310) was matched by BMI to a subset of patients who underwent unilateral breast surgery (n=310). Arm volume measurements were obtained via an optoelectronic perometer preoperatively, postoperatively, and in the follow-up setting every 6-12 months. The correlation of ipsilateral RVC and WAC values for those who underwent bilateral surgery was calculated (r=0.60). Contralateral WAC values for patients in both cohorts were compared, and there was no significant difference between the two distributions in variance (p=0.446). The RVC equation shows potential to be used to quantify ipsilateral postoperative arm volume changes for patients who undergo a CPM. However, a larger trial in which RVC and WAC values are prospectively assessed is needed.


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