Comparison of pain, motion, and edema after modified radical mastectomy vs. local excision with axillary dissection and radiation

Lynn Gerber, Marsha Lampert, Carol Wood, Mary Duncan, Teresa D'Angelo, Wendy Schain, Harold McDonald, David Danforth, Peggie Findlay, Eli Glatstein, Marc E. Lippman, Seth M. Steinberg, Catherine Gorrell, Allen Lichter, Ernest Demoss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Recent data suggest that prognosis is similar for women with primary breast cancer whether they receive modified radical mastectomy (MRM) or local excision and axillary dissection with radiation (XRT). The effects of either of these treatments on arm mobility, pain, or edema have not been compared. To assess the impact of MRM or XRT on mobility, pain, or edema, we evaluated patients treated in a prospective randomized trial designed to assess prognosis following MRM or XRT. All were provided a standardized physical therapy program including arm mobilization, shoulder strengthening, prevention and treatment of upper extremity edema, and education about arm function. Patients were evaluated for chest wall pain, arm motion, muscle strength, and edema as determined by circumferential measurements at the wrist, forearm, and arm. Evaluations were performed preoperatively and at yearly anniversaries of their surgery. Women receiving XRT had more chest wall tenderness at 1 and 2 years after surgery than those receiving MRM (p2<0.0001 and p2=0.0007 respectively). Those receiving MRM were slower to reach their preoperative range of motion (ROM) (p2=0.043). Incidence of muscle weakness was similar in both groups. The few patients with local recurrence of tumor had more upper extremity edema than those who did not recur (p2=0.085) at 1 year and (p2=0.02) at 2 years. In patients who did not develop local recurrence, those who had received XRT had greater but nonsignificant increases in upper extremity circumferential measures compared with those receiving MRM at any anniversary evaluation. Patients receiving MRM and XRT are likely to have some differences in functional outcome. These differences may be important to individuals and be significant in helping them choose between MRM and XRT based upon individual functional needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalBreast cancer research and treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1992


  • breast cancer
  • conservation treatment
  • local excision
  • mastectomy
  • radiotherapy
  • rehabilitation
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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