Current Breast Cancer Reports

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 53–58 | Cite as

Lymphedema: How Do We Diagnose and Reduce the Risk of This Dreaded Complication of Breast Cancer Treatment?

  • Michael J. Bernas
  • Robert L. Askew
  • Jane M. Armer
  • Janice N. CormierEmail author


Lymphedema is an under-recognized, progressive, life-long condition estimated to impact 2-3 million people in the United States. The incidence of breast cancer related lymphedema varies greatly in the literature largely due to different measurement techniques, competing thresholds for defining lymphedema, and variation in length of follow-up. Multiple imaging techniques have become useful for diagnosis. Lymphoscintigraphy is one of the most commonly used, as it can identify pathways of lymphatic drainage, quantify extent of dermal backflow, and help determine functional and morphologic changes in the lymphatic system. Early detection and intervention hold the greatest promise of reducing the incidence of lymphedema. Health care providers involved with cancer patients need to become more educated about lymphedema, aware of current risk-reduction practices, and familiar with methods of diagnosis and assessment, so that patients with early swelling can be referred to lymphedema treatment specialists at a time when treatment is more effective.


Lymphedema Breast cancer 



No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Bernas
    • 1
  • Robert L. Askew
    • 2
  • Jane M. Armer
    • 3
  • Janice N. Cormier
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Surgical OncologyThe University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Sinclair School of NursingUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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