The effects of obesity on lymphatic pain and swelling in breast cancer patients

Mei Rosemary Fu, Deborah Axelrod, Amber Guth, Melissa L. McTernan, Jeanna M. Qiu, Zhuzhu Zhou, Eunjung Ko, Cherlie Magny-Normilus, Joan Scagliola, Yao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: BackgroundLymphatic pain and swelling due to lymph fluid accumulation are the most common and debilitating long-term adverse effects of cancer treatment. This study aimed to quantify the effects of obesity on lymphatic pain, arm, and truncal swelling. Methods: A sample of 554 breast cancer patients were enrolled in the study. Body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and body fat mass were measured using a bioimpedance device. Obesity was defined as a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 . The Breast Cancer and Lymphedema Symptom Experience Index was used to measure lymphatic pain, arm, and truncal swelling. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) to quantify the effects of obesity. Results: Controlling for clinical and demographic characteristics as well as body fat percentage, obesity had the greatest effects on lymphatic pain (OR 3.49, 95% CI 1.87–6.50; p < 0.001) and arm swelling (OR 3.98, 95% CI 1.82–4.43; p < 0.001). Conclusions: Obesity is a significant risk factor for lymphatic pain and arm swelling in breast cancer patients. Obesity, lymphatic pain, and swelling are inflammatory conditions. Future study should explore the inflammatory pathways and understand the molecular mechanisms to find a cure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number818
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Arm swelling
  • Breast cancer
  • Lymphatic
  • Lymphedema
  • Obesity
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Truncal swelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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