In 2002-2003, 287 women from south-east Queensland newly diagnosed with breast cancer, participated in the Pulling Through Study. This study was designed to advance our understanding of the physical and psychosocial recovery experienced by Australian breast cancer survivors.
This follow-up study carried out in 2008-2009 revisited 195 women from the original study and aims to quantify the magnitude of secondary lymphoedema and related functional impairment in women 6 years after their diagnosis of breast cancer. This study will also determine whether it is possible to identify a subset of women who are most likely to develop lymphoedema due to inherited genetic susceptibility. This might lead to introducing genetic testing and counselling protocols to target intensive monitoring for earlier diagnosis of lymphoedema when management may be more effective in reducing the severity of lymphoedema and associated disability.
Clearer understanding of the determinants of secondary lymphoedema, both biological and otherwise, may reveal opportunities for prevention and more effective treatment. At a minimum, we should be able to improve information given to clinicians and women with breast cancer, to help them better anticipate and manage their physical recovery from the disease.