Time Course of Mild Arm Lymphedema After Breast Conservation Treatment for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Voichita Bar Ad, Andrea Cheville, Lawrence J. Solin, Pinaki Dutta, Stefan Both, Eleanor E.R. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Purpose: Arm lymphedema is a potential consequence of the treatment for breast carcinoma. The objective of this retrospective study was to characterize the progression of mild arm lymphedema after breast conservation treatment for breast cancer. Methods and Materials: The study cohort was drawn from 1,713 consecutive Stage I or II breast cancer patients who underwent breast conservation therapy, including axillary staging followed by radiation. Arm lymphedema was documented in 266 (16%) of 1,713 patients. One hundred nine patients, 6% of the overall group and 40% of the patients with arm lymphedema, presented with mild arm lymphedema, defined as a difference of 2 cm or less between the measured circumferences of the affected and unaffected arms. Results: Among the 109 patients with mild arm lymphedema at the time of arm lymphedema diagnosis, the rate of freedom from progression to more severe lymphedema was 79% at 1 year, 66% at 3 years, and 52% at 5 years. The patients who were morbidly obese, had positive axillary lymph nodes, or received supraclavicular irradiation at the time of breast cancer treatment were at higher risk of progression from mild arm lymphedema to more severe edema. Conclusions: Mild arm lymphedema, generally considered to be a minor complication after breast conservation treatment for breast cancer, was associated with a risk of progression to a more severe grade of arm lymphedema in a substantial fraction of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-90
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast conservation therapy
  • Mild arm lymphedema


Dive into the research topics of 'Time Course of Mild Arm Lymphedema After Breast Conservation Treatment for Early-Stage Breast Cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this