Impact of Ipsilateral Blood Draws, Injections, Blood Pressure Measurements, and Air Travel on the Risk of Lymphedema for Patients Treated for Breast Cancer

J Clin Oncol. 2016 Mar 1;34(7):691-8. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5948. Epub 2015 Dec 7.


Purpose: The goal of this study was to investigate the association between blood draws, injections, blood pressure readings, trauma, cellulitis in the at-risk arm, and air travel and increases in arm volume in a cohort of patients treated for breast cancer and screened for lymphedema.

Patients and methods: Between 2005 and 2014, patients undergoing treatment of breast cancer at our institution were screened prospectively for lymphedema. Bilateral arm volume measurements were performed preoperatively and postoperatively using a Perometer. At each measurement, patients reported the number of blood draws, injections, blood pressure measurements, trauma to the at-risk arm(s), and number of flights taken since their last measurement. Arm volume was quantified using the relative volume change and weight-adjusted change formulas. Linear random effects models were used to assess the association between relative arm volume (as a continuous variable) and nontreatment risk factors, as well as clinical characteristics.

Results: In 3,041 measurements, there was no significant association between relative volume change or weight-adjusted change increase and undergoing one or more blood draws (P = .62), injections (P = .77), number of flights (one or two [P = .77] and three or more [P = .91] v none), or duration of flights (1 to 12 hours [P = .43] and 12 hours or more [P = .54] v none). By multivariate analysis, factors significantly associated with increases in arm volume included body mass index ≥ 25 (P = .0236), axillary lymph node dissection (P < .001), regional lymph node irradiation (P = .0364), and cellulitis (P < .001).

Conclusion: This study suggests that although cellulitis increases risk of lymphedema, ipsilateral blood draws, injections, blood pressure readings, and air travel may not be associated with arm volume increases. The results may help to educate clinicians and patients on posttreatment risk, prevention, and management of lymphedema.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Travel*
  • Arm Injuries / complications
  • Blood Pressure Determination / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Cellulitis / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections / adverse effects
  • Lymphedema / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phlebotomy / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors