What is the effect of education on upper extremity function in patients with lymphedema after breast cancer treatments?

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of education on the upper extremity functions of patients with lymphedema (LE) after breast cancer treatments.

Thirty-eight patients with LE after breast cancer treatments participated in the study. The patients were separated into two groups. Group 1 (n = 19) was educated about the causes and symptoms of LE and the methods for minimizing complications from LE, such as skin care, changes that must be made in daily life activities, exercises, and protective clothing. Group 2 (n = 19) was treated through standard means (surgical, chemotherapy, radiotherapy). A universal goniometer was used to assess the range of motion of the upper extremity of the patients. The Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire (DASH) and the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) were used to assess shoulder function. The measures were carried out once by the same physiotherapist. The chi-square and Mann-Whitney U tests were used to analyze the data.

Group 1, educated about LE, performed better than the other group in shoulder flexion range. When shoulder abduction, internal-external rotation, and elbow flexion motions were compared by using the DASH and SPADI, no significant difference was observed between the groups (p > 0.05). However, when shoulder function was compared, Group 1 was better. There was no significant difference between the groups when the severity of LE was compared.

This study underscores the need to develop and implement strategies for LE prevention and education for all breast cancer patients.