Self-reported comorbid conditions and medication usage in breast cancer survivors with and without lymphedema

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2008 Jan;35(1):57-63. doi: 10.1188/08.ONF.57-63.


Purpose/objectives: To compare the self-reported comorbid conditions and medication usage between breast cancer survivors with and without breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema.

Design: Descriptive, cross-sectional.

Setting: A community-based study conducted in a major metropolitan area and surrounding rural counties in the southeastern United States.

Sample: A convenience sample of 64 breast cancer survivors with lymphedema and 64 breast cancer survivors without lymphedema who were age matched within three years and recruited for a parent study. Twenty-one additional non-age-matched breast cancer survivors with or without lymphedema also were included.

Methods: Self-reported survey instruments and height and weight measurement.

Main research variables: Lymphedema, demographic information, self-reported comorbid diseases or medical issues, and medication usage.

Findings: Breast cancer survivors with lymphedema experienced more comorbid conditions. Statistically significant group differences were found in body mass index, orthopedic issues, cardiac medications, hormone blockers, and osteoporosis medication or calcium supplement usage. Co-occurrence of diabetes and carpal tunnel syndrome approached statistical significance. Breast cancer survivors with lymphedema were older and had lower incomes.

Conclusions: Comorbid conditions may influence the development of breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. Further research, particularly a longitudinal study, is indicated.

Implications for nursing: Healthcare professionals who care for breast cancer survivors need to routinely assess them for the presence of comorbid conditions and the development of lymphedema. Obese breast cancer survivors may benefit from weight reduction interventions to possibly decrease their risk of developing lymphedema and improve their overall health status. Patients with arthritis and orthopedic and cardiac issues such as hypertension may warrant careful monitoring.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lymphedema / epidemiology*
  • Lymphedema / prevention & control
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology
  • Survivors*