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Self-Measured Arm Circumference in Women With Breast Cancer Is Reliable and Valid

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


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  • Bolette S Rafn
  • Margaret L McNeely
  • Pat G Camp
  • Julie Midtgaard
  • Kristin L Campbell
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Background: Prospective surveillance by physical therapists enables early detection and treatment of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL). Strategies to increase access to prospective surveillance could reduce the burden of BCRL on patients and the health system. One potential solution is self-managed surveillance that does not require in-person assessment by a specialized physical therapist.

Objective: The objective was to develop and test the reliability and validity of a written and video-supported protocol for women with breast cancer to self-measure arm circumference.

Design: This was a cross-sectional reliability and validity study.

Methods: Participants with (n = 20) and without (n = 21) BCRL completed self-measurement of arm circumference on both arms at home (CIRself_home) and at the lab (CIRself_lab) (intrarater reliability). The CIRself_lab was subsequently compared to measures performed by a specialized physical therapist (CIRther) (interrater reliability). To test validity, arm volume calculated from the self-measurements (VOLself_lab) was compared to perometry measurements (VOLper). Participants completed a questionnaire to assess attitudes for performing self-managed surveillance for BCRL.

Results: The intrarater reliability between CIRself_home and CIRself_lab and the interrater reliability between CIRself_lab and CIRther was high to excellent for both arms in both groups (ICC ≥ 0.86). VOLself_lab correlated strongly with VOLper (r ≥ 0.95), demonstrating excellent validity. Participants reported strong intention, self-efficacy, and positive attitude towards the performance of self-managed surveillance for BCRL, which was not perceived to increase worry about having or getting BCRL.

Limitations: These findings need to be replicated in a clinical setting to confirm the reliability and acceptability of self-managed surveillance for BCRL among women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Conclusions: Self-measured arm circumference is reliable and valid among women with and without BCRL. Self-managed surveillance for BCRL may support self-efficacy without increasing anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)240-253
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

ID: 55839125