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Compression bandages effective for lymphedema treatment: McMaster study

New research from McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont., showed using simple compression bandages may be used as treatment for lymphedema, in the absence of daily lymphatic massage therapy.

November 14, 2013  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

Lymphedema is a swelling in the arm that can develop as a complication of treatment in breast cancer patients.

researchers have found no difference if simple compression bandages or a
complicated daily lymphatic massage are used as treatment.

the future, patients who receive or can only afford elastic sleeves and
gloves should be comforted knowing that their care has not been
compromised," said Dr. Ian Dayes, associate professor of oncology for
the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and principal investigator of
the study.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

arm swelling is a complication affecting six to 30 per cent of breast
cancer patients and can result in discomfort, reduction of arm function,
infection and emotional upset. Patients who are obese, have infection
or additional surgery or radiation are more likely to have the swelling
complication which can last indefinitely.


The research team
followed more than 100 women at six Canadian breast cancer treatment
centres for a full year. One group wore elastic compression sleeve and
glove garments on the arm for 12 waking hours a day.

The other group
received an hour of lymphatic drainage massage from trained therapists
each weekday for four weeks along with exercise and skin care.
Participants had compression bandages left on the arm and hand for the
rest of the 24-hour day. After the month of treatment, these patients
wore an elastic compression sleeve and glove for daytime wear, the same
as the first group.

Regular measurements of arm volume, arm
function and quality of life were taken, but no appreciative difference
was found between the treatments, researchers said.

The McMaster
study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Breast Cancer Research
Alliance, with fellowship support from the Juravinski Cancer Centre

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