Tolerability, Safety and Efficacy of a Specific Rehabilitation Treatment Protocol for Axillary Web Syndrome: An Observational Retrospective Study

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Jan 9;15(2):426. doi: 10.3390/cancers15020426.


Axillary web syndrome (AWS) is a highly prevalent surgical complication affecting BC survivors. It presents as a subcutaneous cording that limits the upper limb range of motion (ROM) and causes pain. Its etiology is still debated, and its treatment is not well defined. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of our specific AWS rehabilitative treatment protocol. We conducted an observational retrospective study on a cohort of 92 AWS patients referred to the oncological outpatient service of a university hospital. We collected data from medical records before (T0) and after (T1) the treatment. The studied protocol was composed of 60-min sessions, carried out 3 times/week by specialized physiotherapists, until the clinical resolution of AWS. We found that a mean of 8.74 ± 2.12 rehabilitative sessions were needed, and only one patient stopped early. At T1, shoulder ROM was complete in both abduction and flexion in 98% of patients; AWS was no longer detectable in 64% of them, and pain significantly decreased compared to T0. In conclusion, our protocol proved to be safe, well-tolerated and seemed to be effective in treating AWS.

Keywords: axillary web syndrome; breast cancer; manual lymphatic drainage; pain; physical therapy; rehabilitation.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.