A condition called lymphedema is a well-known side effect of breast cancer treatment that can lead to swelling in the arms and legs.
New research suggests that Black women experience more than three times the risk of this painful issue compared to white women.
“Lymphedema worsens quality of life for breast cancer patients,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrea Barrio says.
Understanding the links between race, cancer treatment and the effects of treatment could ultimately help improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients and survivors, Barrio said in a news release from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
The researchers measured patients’ arm volume at baseline, after their surgery and at six-month intervals. The study defined lymphedema as a relative volume change of 10% or greater from the baseline.
At 24 months of follow-up, about 25% of the women had developed lymphedema. Black women had a 3.5-fold increased risk compared to white women, the findings show.
Lymphedema has been somewhat overlooked in the research arena, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, an associate professor of breast surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City says.
Why the racial disparity?
“This study hints at some of the possible reasons for racial disparity, as women with lymphedema were more likely to undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy before surgery,” Bernik shares.