Financial cost of lymphedema borne by women with breast cancer

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Psycho-Oncology, 2017, 26 (6), pp. 849 - 855
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Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Psycho-Oncology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Objective: Our study examines the financial cost of lymphedema following a diagnosis of breast cancer and addresses a significant knowledge gap regarding the additional impact of lymphedema on breast cancer survivors. Methods: An online national survey was conducted with 361 women who had either breast cancer without lymphedema (BC) (group 1, n = 209) or breast cancer with lymphedema (BC+LE) (group 2, n = 152). Participant recruitment was supported by the Breast Cancer Network Australia and the Australasian Lymphology Association. Results: Both breast cancer and lymphedema result in significant out-of-pocket financial costs borne by women. Of patients with BC+LE, 80% indicated that their breast cancer diagnosis had affected them financially compared with 67% in the BC group (P <.020). For patients with lymphedema, over half (56%) indicated that this specific additional diagnosis to their breast cancer affected them financially and that costs increased with lymphedema severity. The cost of compression garments formed a large proportion of these costs (40.1%). The average number of attendances to a therapist each year was 5.8 (range, 0-45). Twenty-five patients (16.4%) had an episode of cellulitis in the past year. The incidence of cellulitis was 7.7% in 91 patients with subclinical or mild lymphedema compared with 29.5% of 61 patients with more extensive lymphedema (P <.001). The average out-of-pocket financial cost of lymphedema care borne by women was A$977 per annum, ranging from A$207 for subclinical lymphedema to over A$1400 for moderate or severe lymphedema. Conclusions: This study identifies an additional detrimental effect of lymphedema on women in terms of financial costs.
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