BACKGROUND - A significant percentage of breast cancer survivors are at risk for lymphedema for which lifelong self-care is required. Previous studies suggest that less than 50% of breast cancer survivors with lymphedema (BCS-LE) perform prescribed self-care tasks and that even wearing a compression sleeve, the most commonly reported self-care activity, is done irregularly. Reasons for poor self-care adherence include perceived lack of results from self-care (no available arm volume data) and perceived inability to manage the condition.
METHODS AND RESULTS - A two-part pilot study was conducted to: 1) develop and determine the feasibility of a self-measurement protocol using a single frequency bioelectrical impedance device; and 2) examine daily variation in extracellular volume in healthy and lymphedematous limbs. Healthy and BCS-LE volunteers were recruited to refine and test a self-measurement protocol. Volunteers were trained in the use of the device and measured for 5 consecutive days in a laboratory setting. They were then given the device to use at home for an additional 5 consecutive days of self-measurement. All volunteers completed each scheduled home measurement. Daily variability in both groups was noted.
CONCLUSIONS - Home self-measurement using bioelectrical impedance is feasible, acceptable, and captures change. This has implications for both self-care support and for the possibility of incorporating self-measurement using bioelectrical impedance in future clinical trials examining effectiveness of lymphedema treatment.