The risk of subclinical breast cancer-related lymphedema by the extent of axillary surgery and regional node irradiation: a randomized controlled trial

John Boyages*, Frank A. Vicini, Chirag Shah, Louise A. Koelmeyer, Jerrod A. Nelms, Sheila H. Ridner

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Purpose: To compare the risk of subclinical breast cancer–related lymphedema (sBCRL) using bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) or tape measure (TM) by the extent of axillary surgery and regional nodal irradiation (RNI). Methods and Materials: Patients were randomized to surveillance with TM or BIS. A BIS ≥6.5 L-Dex units or TM volume change ≥5 and <10% above presurgical baselines “triggered” sBCRL. The incidence of sBCRL by sentinel node biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) with or without RNI was examined for 484 patients. Radiation was categorized as “limited RNI” (axilla level I/II only) or “extensive RNI” (axilla level III or supraclavicular fossa with or without level I/II). Results: At a median follow-up of 20.5 months, 109 of 498 patients (21.9%) triggered sBCRL (BIS 13.5% vs TM 25.6%; P <.001). In patients not receiving RNI, BIS triggered 12.9% of patients undergoing SNB and 25.0% undergoing ALND (P =. 18). Extensive RNI significantly increased triggering with BIS versus no RNI after sentinel node biopsy (SNB; 33.3% vs 12.9%; P = .03) but not ALND (30.8% vs 25.0%; P =. 69). Triggering by TM was greater than 25% for most subgroups and was inferior to BIS in discriminating the risk of sBCRL by utilization of RNI or axillary surgery. Conclusions: The lower triggering rates with BIS and its better discrimination of the risk of sBCRL by receipt and type of RNI compared with TM support its use for posttreatment surveillance to detect sBCRL and to initiate early intervention. The risk of sBCRL increased with more extensive axillary treatment. Patients having ALND or extensive RNI require close surveillance for BCRL. Longer follow-up is required to determine rates of progression to clinical lymphedema.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)987-997
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Volume109
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021

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Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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