Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) ratios can effectively assess a woman's risk of lymphedema after breast cancer surgery that includes lymph node removal, according to a study published in the journal Lymphology. BIAs operate on low frequency electronic current, which cannot travel through cell membranes, therefore providing a direct measure of lymph fluid outside the cells.
“To lessen breast cancer survivors’ worry about lymphedema development, the BIA may have a role in clinical practice by adding confidence in the detection of arm lymphedema among breast cancer survivors,” says Mei R. Fu, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, associate professor of Chronic Disease Management at the New York University College of Nursing and lead researcher in the study.
The objective of the study was to examine the reliability, sensitivity, and specificity of cross-sectional assessment of BIA in detecting lymphedema in a large metropolitan clinical setting.
Measuring lymphedema is challenging because most methods cannot distinguish bone and soft tissues from extracellular fluid. BIA is time-efficient, easy to operate and easy to interpret, making it ideal for clinical practice.
Researchers collected data from 250 women, including healthy female adults, breast cancer survivors with lymphedema, and those at risk for lymphedema.
The American Cancer society estimates that in 2013 approximately 232,340 new cases of breast cancer are detected, adding to the already 2.9 million breast cancer survivors, all with a at a lifetime risk of Lymphedema.
“Giving that all the women who are treated for breast cancer are at a life-time risk for lymphedema, using assessment methods that can accurately identify true lymphedema cases among at-risk breast cancer survivors is of the ultimate importance for clinical practice,” Fu says.