It is essential that breast cancer-related lymphoedema is detected early.
Approximately 1 in 5 breast cancer survivors will develop breast cancer-related lymphoedema as a side effect of treatment. Research has shown that early care is associated with less incidence and severity of breast cancer–related lymphedema.
Practitioners play a vital role in the early detection of breast cancer-related lymphoedema to help their patients avoid life-long swelling. The current evidence-based recommendations are to screen, educate and detect lymphoedema before physical signs of swelling appear. This means empowering patients in pre-cancer surgery appointments, including prior to a sentinel lymph node biopsy procedure and before neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
It is now current best practice that all breast cancer patients be educated and screened for lymphoedema early (in the preclinical stage). Shah and colleagues, authors of a 2020 meta-analysis of 67,000 patients state that identification in the subclinical phase allows early intervention and reduces both severe and irreversible symptoms of chronic breast cancer-related lymphoedema.