No votes yet

Breast Cancer Survivors With Lymphedema

Sheila H. Ridner
Vaughn Sinclair
Jie Deng
Candace M. Bonner
Nancy Kidd
Mary S. Dietrich
CJON 2012, 16(6), 609-614 DOI: 10.1188/12.CJON.609-614

Breast cancer survivors with lymphedema experience physical, psychosocial, and quality-of-life difficulties. Cancer treatment-related lymphedema often is viewed as a disabling condition, and that assumption has fostered an environment in which oncology nurses are not actively involved in the care of patients with lymphedema. Little is known about how breast cancer survivors with lymphedema structure their daily lives. This article describes an effort to determine whether lymphedema truly is a disabling condition by collecting symptom data and self-generated narratives from breast cancer survivors with lymphedema regarding their eating habits, daily activities, substance use, and future plans. Although the sample experienced multiple symptoms, lymphedema duration and degree of extracellular arm fluid did not appear to influence those symptoms. In addition, participants led full, rich, busy lives. The findings do not support the notion that patients with lymphedema live as disabled people. A disability model may not be optimal to guide research design or patient care; rather, a symptom management model better explains the findings and implies that active involvement by nurses in lymphedema patient care and education is indicated.


Ahmed, R., Schmitz, K., Prizment, A., & Folsom, A. (2011). Risk factors for lymphedema in breast cancer survivors, the Iowa women's health study. <i>Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 130</i>, 981-991. doi:10.1007/s10549-011-1667-z

Bosompra, K., Ashikaga, T., O'Brien, P. J., Nelson, L., & Skelly, J. (2002). Swelling, numbness, pain, and their relationship to arm function among breast cancer survivors: A disablement process model perspective. <i>Breast, 8</i>, 338-348.

Carter, B. J. (1997). Women's experiences of lymphedema. <i>Oncology Nursing Forum, 24</i>, 875-882.

Fu, M. R. (2005). Breast cancer survivors' intentions of managing lymphedema. <i>Cancer Nursing, 28</i>, 458-459.

Hayes, S. C., Reul-Hirche, H., & Turner, J. (2009). Exercise and secondary lymphedema: Safety, potential benefits, and research issues. <i>Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41</i>, 483-489.

International Society of Lymphology. (2009). The diagnosis and treatment of peripheral lymphedema: 2009 consensus document of the International Society of Lymphology. <i>Lymphology, 42</i>, 51-60.

Lenz, E. R., Pugh, L. C., Milligan, R. A., Gift, A., & Suppe, F. (1997). The middle-range theory of unpleasant symptoms: An update. <i>Advances in Nursing Science, 19</i>, 14-27.

Pyszel, A., Malyszczak, K., Pyszel, K., Andrzejak, R., & Szuba, A. (2006). Disability, psychological distress and quality of life in breast cancer survivors with arm lymphedema. <i>Lymphology, 39</i>, 185-192.

Radina, E. M., Armer, J., Culbertson, S., & Dusold, J. (2004). Post-breast cancer lymphedema: Understanding women's knowledge of their condition. <i>Oncology Nursing Forum, 31</i>, 97-104.

Radina, E. M., Watson, W., & Faubert, K. (2007). Lymphoedema and sexual relationships in mid/later life. <i>Journal of Lymphoedema, 3</i>(2), 21-30.

Ridner, S. H. (2005). Quality of life and a symptom cluster associated with breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. <i>Supportive Care in Cancer, 13</i>, 904-911. doi:10.1007/s00520-005-0810-yi

Ridner, S. H., Bonner, C. M., Deng, J., & Sinclair, V. (2012). Voices from the shadows: Living with lymphedema. <i>Cancer Nursing, 35</i>, E18-E26.

Ridner, S. H., & Dietrich, M. S. (2010). Development of the Lymphedema Symptoms Intensity and Distress Survey Arm. <i>Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28</i>(15, Suppl.), 9125.

Ridner, S. H., Dietrich, M. S., Deng, J., Bonner, C. M., & Kidd, N. (2009). Bioelectrical impedance for detecting upper limb lymphedema in nonlaboratory settings. <i>Lymphatic Research and Biology, 7</i>, 11-15.

Ridner, S.H, Dietrich, M. S., & Kidd, N. (2011). Breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema self-care: Education, practices, symptoms, and quality of life. <i>Supportive Care in Cancer, 19</i>, 631-637.

Ridner, S. H., Montgomery, L., Hepworth, J., Stewart, B., & Armer, J. (2007). Comparison of upper limb volume measurement techniques and arm symptoms between healthy volunteers and individuals with known lymphedema. <i>Lymphology, 40</i>, 35-46.

Rosedale, M., & Fu, M. R. (2010). Confronting the unexpected: Temporal, situational, and attributive dimensions of distressing symptom experience for breast cancer survivors [Online exclusive]. <i>Oncology Nursing Forum, 37</i>, E28-E33. doi:10.1188/10.ONF.E28-E33

Santos, D. A., Silva, A. M., Baptista, F., Santos, R., Gobbo, L. A., Mota, J., … Sardinha, L. B. (2012). Are cardiorespiratory fitness and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity independently associated to overweight, obesity, and abdominal obesity in the elderly? <i>American Journal of Human Biology, 24</i>, 28-34.

Schmitz, K. H., Ahmed, R. L., Troxel, A. B., Cheville, A., Lewis-Grant, L., Smith, R., … Chittams, J. (2010). Weight lifting for women at risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema: A randomized trial. <i>JAMA, 304</i>, 2699-2705. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1837

Thomas-MacLean, R., Miedema, B., & Tatemichi, S. R. (2005). Breast cancer-related lymphedema: Women's experiences with an underestimated condition. <i>Canadian Family Physician, 51</i>, 246-247.

Towers, A., Carnevale, F. A., & Baker, M. E. (2008). The psychosocial effects of cancer-related lymphedema. <i>Journal of Palliative Care, 24</i>, 134-143.

Tsauo, J. Y., Hung, H. C., Tsai, H. J., & Huang, C. S. (2011). Can ICF model for patients with breast-cancer-related lymphedema predict quality of life? <i>Supportive Care in Cancer, 19</i>, 599-604.