Secondary Lymphedema Study
Breast Cancer and Lymphedema
Secondary (or acquired) lymphedema is a condition that can develop when the lymphatic system is disrupted or damaged and is unable to drain excess fluid. Breast cancer treatment, specifically surgery and/or radiation, is the most common cause of secondary lymphedema in developed countries. It is estimated that approximately 20% of breast cancer survivors will develop lymphedema. Of these individuals, most will be diagnosed within the first 3 years following treatment; however, the risk for developing lymphedema is present for life. Very little is known about why some women develop lymphedema after breast cancer treatment and others do not. At the present time, there is no cure for lymphedema, but it is important to identify women in the early stages of the condition in order to better manage the swelling and prevent it from becoming more severe.
Purpose of this study
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), are investigating genetic factors that may influence the development of lymphedema following surgery and/or radiation. Both women who have developed lymphedema and those who have not are being included in the study. Family members are also invited to participate.
As part of the study, we ask participants to submit a blood or saliva sample to obtain DNA. We are using this DNA to test whether there are changes in genes (mutations) that increase the risk of developing secondary lymphedema. We also obtain a detailed medical and family history and take measurements of the extremities (arms and legs). To do these measurements we use three painless and non-invasive methods:
- Direct measurements with a tape measure at different points along the extremities.
- Perometry, which calculates the volume of the extremity by using light beams and sensors in a sliding frame.
- Bioelectric Impedance, which uses electric current to calculate the fluid volume in each limb.
Interested in learning more?
If you have been treated for breast cancer and you reside in the Pittsburgh area, whether or not you have developed lymphedema, please call the research coordinator, Kara Levine, M.S., at (412) 624-4657 or e-mail her at . Please be sure to include the word "LYMPHEDEMA" in the subject line of any email sent to this address.