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Young breast cancer survivors experience significant arm morbidity after lymph node surgery, according to an analysis of data from the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Study (YWS). The study showed that 13% experienced arm swelling and one-third had decreased range of motion, one year after lymph node surgery.

“Our findings highlight opportunities for preoperative counseling, early referral to physical therapy and identification of resources for ongoing support for those at increased risk,” said lead author Anne Kuijer, MD, PhD, a surgical resident at Diakonessen Hospital Utrecht, in the Netherlands, and a former postdoctoral research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. She presented the study at the 2017 annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (abstract G5-03).

Dr. Kuijer said a recent meta-analysis showed that 20% of all breast cancer survivors experience lymphedema, and 4% to 28% have shoulder impairment, depending on definition and measurement methods used. Little is known, however, about women younger than 40 years of age because they are frequently underrepresented in clinical trials. “There are currently no prior studies on the risk of arm morbidity in young breast cancer survivors,” Dr. Kuijer said. “It is particularly important in this patient group, given their longer survivorship period, more active lifestyle and importance of body image.”