Breast cancer survivors are at increased risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL), a chronic, debilitating, condition that is progressive and requires lifelong self-management. Up to 40% of 3 million breast cancer survivors in the US will develop BCRL, which has no cure, is irreversible, and requires self-management with regimens that may include multiple components. The complexities of treatment can negatively affect adherence to BCRL self-management which is critical to preventing progressive swelling and infection. The aim of this review of contemporary literature published from 2005–2015 is to examine the complexities of BCRL self-management, to identify adherence-focused studies relevant to BCRL, and to summarize barriers to self-management of BCRL. Six electronic indices were searched from which 120 articles were retrieved; 17 were BCRL-focused; and eight met inclusion criteria. Seventeen of 120 articles identified barriers to self-management of BCRL such as complexities of treatment regimens, symptom burden, balance of time for treatment and life demands, and lack of education and support; however, only eight studies included outcome measures of adherence to BCRL treatment regimens with a subsequent improvement in reduced limb volumes and/or perceptions of self-efficacy and self-regulation. A major limitation is the few number of rigorously developed outcome measures of BCRL adherence. In addition, randomized studies are needed with larger sample sizes to establish adequate levels of evidence for establishing best practice standards for improving adherence to BCRL self-management treatment regimens.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited