European Journal of Cancer Care vol:20 issue:1 pages:77-86
All breast cancer patients, suspected with lymph node invasion, need an axillary lymph node dissection. This study investigated the short- and long-term effects of the treatment for breast cancer on shoulder mobility, development of lymphoedema, pain and activities of daily living. Patients who had a modified radical mastectomy (33%) or a breast-conserving procedure (67%) in combination with axillary lymph node dissection were included. Shoulder mobility, lymphoedema, pain and activities of daily living were evaluated at 3 months and at 3.4 years after surgery. At long term, 31% of the patients experienced impaired shoulder mobility, 18% developed lymphoedema, 79% had pain and 51% mentioned impaired daily activities. Between 3 months and 3.4 years after surgery, impaired shoulder mobility decreased from 57% to 31%. The incidence of lymphoedema increased from 4% to 18%. Patients experienced an equal amount of pain but fewer problems with daily activities. At 3.4 years, no significant differences between mastectomy and breast-conserving procedure were found. In conclusion, at long term, significant number of breast cancer survivors still had impaired shoulder mobility, developed lymphoedema, had pain and experienced difficulties during daily activities. Shoulder mobility, pain and daily activities evolved positively, while the incidence of lymphoedema increased.