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Eighteen Sensations After Breast Cancer Surgery: A Comparison of Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy and Axillary Lymph Node Dissection

Roberta H. Baron
Jane V. Fey
Sara Raboy
Howard T. Thaler
Patrick I. Borgen
Larissa K. F. Temple
Kimberly J. Van Zee
ONF 2002, 29(4), 651-659 DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.651-659

Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate prevalence, severity, and level of distress of 18 sensations at 3-15 days (baseline), 3 months, and 6 months after breast cancer surgery; to compare sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) to SLNB with immediate or delayed axillary lymph node dissection; to evaluate the Breast Sensation Assessment Scale© (BSAS©) for reliability and validity.

Design: Prospective, descriptive.

Setting: Evelyn H. Lauder Ambulatory Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Sample: 283 women with breast cancer; 187 had SLNB, and 96 had SLNB and axillary lymph node dissection.

Methods: Patients completed the BSAS© at baseline, three months, and six months after surgery.

Main Research Variables: Prevalence, severity, and level of distress of sensations in patients who had breast cancer surgery.

Findings: Sensations were less prevalent, severe, and distressing following SLNB compared with axillary lymph node dissection at all three time points. Tenderness and soreness remained highly prevalent following SLNB at the three time points. Tenderness, soreness, tightness, and numbness were among the most severe and distressing symptoms in both groups. The BSAS© demonstrated good reliability and validity.

Conclusions: Overall prevalence, severity, and level of distress were lower following SLNB compared with axillary lymph node dissection at baseline, three months, and six months after surgery. Certain sensations remained prevalent, severe, and distressing in both groups. The BSAS© is a reliable and valid instrument.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses should be familiar with prevalent sensations patients experience after SLNB and axillary lymph node dissection so they can provide education and support.

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