Background/aim: Upper limb lymphedema is one of the most frequent chronic complications after breast cancer treatment with a significant impact on the upper extremity function and quality of life (QoL). The aim of this study was to estimate health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in patients with breast-cancer-related lymphedema and its correlation with upper limb function and the size of edema.
Methods: The cross-sectional study included 54 breast-cancer-related lymphedema patients. The quality of life was evaluated by the Short Form 36-Item Health Survey (SF-36). Upper limb function was assessed by the Quick Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire (Quick DASH). The size of lymphedema was determined by the arm circumference.
Results: The higher HRQoL score was assessed for mental health (47.0 ± 12.2) than for physical one (42.2 ± 7.5). The highest values of SF-36 were found in the domains of Mental Health (67.7 ± 22.9) and Social Function (70.1 ± 23.1). The lowest scores were registered in the domains of Role Physical (46.9 ± 39.1) and General Health (49.3 ± 20.1). Upper extremity function statistically significantly correlated with the domains Role Physical, Bodily Pain and Physical Composite Summary and also, with the domain Role Emotional (p < 0.01). There was no statistically significant correlation between size of lymphedema and tested domains of quality of life (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: Physical disability in patients with breast cancer-related lymphedema influences quality of life more than mental health. Upper limb function has a significant impact on quality of life, not only on the physical, but also on the mental component. The presence of breast-cancer-related lymphedema certainly affects upper limb function and quality of life, but in this study no significant correlation between the size of edema and quality of life was found.