Axillary web syndrome assessment using a self-assessment questionnaire: a prospective cohort study

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Background: Surgical procedure for breast cancer is not without its side effects and one such side effect is axillary web syndrome (AWS), characterized by palpable fibrotic-like cords in the operated arm. As physical evaluation is the only gold standard method used, our study aims to assess the incidence and early detection of AWS with a self-assessment questionnaire. Methods: From July 2013 to July 2014, 370 breast cancer patients were enrolled. AWS incidence was 51.1%, with 94.1% onset in the first 4 weeks after surgery; 43.5% of the patients did not recover in the first 8 weeks. Univariate analysis showed that BMI (P < 0.001), age (P < 0.001), educational level (P = 0.01), and exercise frequency in the eighth week of follow-up (P < 0.001) were significantly associated with the AWS detection, and multivariate analyses confirmed that younger patients (age < 50) have significantly higher AWS detection (OR = 2.38 (95%CI 1.53, 3.71) and that BMI is associated with AWS, with normal weight patients (BMI ≤ 25) having a significantly greater AWS detection with an odds ratio of 2.11 (95%CI 1.33, 3.36). Conclusion: Our findings indicated that the incidence of AWS is high in breast cancer patients, particularly in the first month after surgery. Not all patients achieved recovery during our 8 week follow-up, suggesting that evaluation and treatment should be longer. Double AWS detection was found for patients who were younger (age < 50) and with normal weight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2801-2807
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Lymph node dissection
  • Physiotherapy
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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