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Patients With Lymphedema Benefit From Personalized Care

TOP - Daily

Lymphedema causes chronic discomfort for millions of American cancer survivors. Based on a recent review of published literature on lymphedema treatments, a University of Missouri researcher asserts that emphasizing patients’ quality of life rather than focusing only on reducing swelling is key to effectively managing the condition.

Many insurance providers and healthcare professionals determine a lymphedema patient’s need for treatment solely on how swollen their limbs are, said Jane Armer, professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and director of nursing research at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. However, according to several studies, the volume of fluid doesn’t necessarily correspond with patients’ discomfort.

“Practitioners need to treat the swelling while considering patients’ distress,” Armer said. “Healthcare providers should focus on managing symptoms and choose carefully among various treatments to provide individualized care plans that comfort patients, which may require modifying existing protocols.”

In the literature review, Armer and her colleagues found that a comprehensive approach for treating lymphedema called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which includes exercise, skin care, manual lymphatic drainage, and compression of the swollen limbs, may be the best form of specialized lymphedema management.

In another, unrelated review, the researchers discovered that chronic lymphedema patients who have limited or no access to medical care can greatly benefit from Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC) therapy, because patients can use the compression devices in their homes.

Further research is needed to demonstrate the usefulness of various lymphedema treatments, such as CDT and IPC, said Armer.

Source: University of Missouri.