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The occurrence of lymphoedema after a range of therapies for operable breast cancer was investigated in 200 individuals. Lymphoedema was evaluated in two ways: subjective (patient and observer impressions) and objective (test results) (physical measurement). The most reliable method of measuring variations in size between the operated and normal arms was arm volume measurement 15 m above the lateral epicondyle . Arm circumference measurements were off. Subjective lymphoedema was present in 14% of the participants, whereas objective lymphoedema (a difference in limb volume more than 200 ml) was found in 25.5%. The extent of axillary surgery (p 0.05) and axillary radiation (p 0.001) were independent risk factors for the development of subjective late lymphoedema. In individuals who have undergone entire axillary clearance, axillary radiation should be avoided.