Prescription and adherence to lymphedema self-care modalities among women with breast cancer-related lymphedema

Justin C. Brown, Andrea L. Cheville, Julia C. Tchou, Susan R. Harris, Kathryn H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Purpose: To profile the prescription for and adherence to breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) self-care modalities among breast cancer (BrCa) survivors with BCRL in a 12-month randomized weightlifting trial. Methods: We developed a questionnaire that assessed prescription for and adherence to 10 BCRL self-care modalities that included physical therapy exercise, pneumatic compression pump, medication, lymphedema bandaging, arm elevation, self-administered lymphatic drainage, therapist-administered lymphatic drainage, compression garments, skin care, and taping. We measured prescription for and adherence to BCRL self-care modalities at baseline, 3, 6, and 12 months. Longitudinal logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) associated with prescription for and adherence to BCRL modalities over time. Results: This study included 141 BrCa survivors with BCRL. Women were prescribed an average of 3.6 ± 2.1 BCRL self-care modalities during the study. The prescription for therapist-administered lymphatic drainage (OR = 0.92, 95 % CI 0.88-0.96), pneumatic compression pump use (OR = 0.94, 95 % CI 0.89-0.98), and bandaging (OR = 0.96, 95 % CI 0.93-0.99) decreased over 12 months of follow-up. No other prescribed BCRL self-care modalities changed during the study. Over 12 months, the average adherence to all BCRL self-care modalities varied with 13, 24, 32, and 31 % of women reporting <25, 25-49, 50-74, and ≥75 % adherence, respectively. Over 12 months, there was a noticeable change from high to low adherence in self-administered lymphatic drainage, such that there was a 15 % increased likelihood of adherence <25 % compared to ≥75 % (OR = 1.15 (95 % CI 1.05-1.26); p = 0.002). The adherence patterns of all other modalities did not change over follow-up. Conclusions: Our findings suggest the prescription for BCRL self-care modalities is variable. The average adherence to BCRL self-care was non-optimal. Future research is necessary to prepare BrCa survivors with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources necessary to care for this lifelong condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'Prescription and adherence to lymphedema self-care modalities among women with breast cancer-related lymphedema'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this