Health-related quality of life in patients with lymphoedema – a cross-sectional study

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Abstract

Introduction:

Lymphoedema may cause complex problems that can strongly influence patients' health-related quality of life (HRQoL). The main purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of lymphoedema on HRQoL in patients with varying forms of lymphoedema.

Methods:

The Lymphoedema Quality of Life Inventory (LyQLI), measuring three domains, physical, psychosocial and practical, and the Short Form 36 Health Survey Questionnaire (SF-36), measuring eight health domains, were sent to 200 lymphoedema patients. Out of those who answered both questionnaires, 88 patients had lymphoedema secondary to cancer treatment and they additionally received the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Scale-General (FACT-G). The relation between continuous variables and the three domains were analysed by Spearman's correlation coefficients, and Kruskal–Wallis test was used to analyse categorical variables.

Results:

Altogether 129 patients completed the LyQLI and SF-36 and 79 of them also completed FACT-G. Twenty per cent had a high mean score (≥2.0) in at least one domain of the LyQLI, thus having a low HRQoL. Lower HRQoL was found in the practical domain of LyQLI in patients with lower limb lymphoedema compared to patient with lymphoedema in upper limb or head/neck (p = 0.002) and in patients working part-time compared to patients working full-time (p = 0.005). The impact on HRQoL tended to decrease with age, with a significant correlation in the psychosocial domain (rs = 0.194, p = 0.028). Compared with the general Swedish population, patients with lymphoedema scored significantly lower in general health (p = 0.006), vitality (p = 0.002) and social functioning (p = 0.025) assessed by the SF-36. From a cancer-specific view, HRQoL was similar to other Swedish studies using the FACT-G.

Conclusions:

This study indicates that about 20% of the patients with lymphoedema had major impact on their HRQoL. More effort and research is needed to identify, understand and support groups of patients with severe lymphoedema-related problems.

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