Arm Morbidity After Local Therapy for Young Breast Cancer Patients

Ann Surg Oncol. 2021 Oct;28(11):6071-6082. doi: 10.1245/s10434-021-09947-3. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


Background: The impact of patient demographics and local therapy choice on arm morbidity in young breast cancer patients is understudied despite its importance given the long survivorship period. This study assessed patient-reported arm morbidity in the Young Women's Breast Cancer Study (YWS), a prospective cohort study.

Methods: From 2006 to 2016, 1302 women with breast cancer diagnosed at the age of 40 years or younger enrolled in the YWS. The participants regularly complete surveys. The response rates are higher than 86%. Using the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial Checklist, this study examined the prevalence of patient-reported postoperative arm swelling and decreased range of motion (ROM) 1 year after diagnosis, stratified by local therapy strategy, in patients who had surgery for stages 1 to 3 disease. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify risk factors for arm morbidity.

Results: Among 888 eligible participants (median age, 37 years), 14% reported arm swelling and 34% reported decreased ROM at 1 year. Arm swelling was reported by 23.6% of the patients who had axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) and 24.6% of the patients who received ALND and post-mastectomy radiation therapy (PMRT). In the multivariable analysis, the patients who reported being financially uncomfortable or who had ALND were at higher risk of arm swelling at 1 year. Being overweight, receiving ALND after sentinel lymph node biopsy, and receiving PMRT were associated with decreased ROM at 1 year.

Conclusion: High rates of self-reported arm morbidity in young breast cancer survivors were reported, particularly in patients receiving ALND and PMRT. Attention to the risks and benefits of differing local therapy strategies for ALND and PMRT patients is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mastectomy
  • Morbidity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy