Treatment for upper-limb and lower-limb lymphedema by professionals specializing in lymphedema care

Langbecker, Danette H., Hayes, Sandra C., Newman, Beth M., & Janda, Monika (2008) Treatment for upper-limb and lower-limb lymphedema by professionals specializing in lymphedema care. European Journal of Cancer Care, 17(6), pp. 557-564.

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Up to 60% of patients with cancer of the vulva, and between 20 and 30% of patients with breast or abdominal cancers may develop lymphedema following treatment. The aims of this study were to assess health professionals' knowledge about treatment, diagnostic procedures, advice and confidence in treatment of patients with either upper-limb (ULL) or lower-limb lymphoedema (LLL), and whether these differed by health professionals' background or for patients with ULL compared with LLL. A cross-sectional telephone interview was undertaken in 2006, of 63 health professionals (response rate 92.6%) known to treat lymphedema. Sixty-three per cent of the health professionals were physiotherapists; the majority were university-trained, with 20 years' experience or more. Ninety-five per cent of health professionals used circumferential measurements to establish lymphedema status, and most health professionals advised avoiding scratches and cuts (100%), insect bites (98.4%), sunburn (98.4%) and excessive exercise (65.1%) on the affected limb. Health professionals reported that compared with patients with LLL, patients with ULL were more likely to present within the first 3 months of being symptomatic (P < 0.01). Patients with LLL were more likely to present with swelling (P = 0.001), heaviness (P = 0.003), tightness (P = 0.007) and skin problems (P < 0.001) compared with patients with ULL. Treatment and advice differed according to health professionals' background, but not location of lymphedema (ULL vs. LLL). Assessment, treatment and advice for lymphedema vary across professional groups. Our results suggest that improvements should be attempted in the early detection of lymphedema, in particular of LLL among cancer patients.

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ID Code: 17380
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: lymphoedema, breast cancer, gynaecological cancer, treatment
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2007.00878.x
ISSN: 0961-5423
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > CLINICAL SCIENCES (110300) > Rehabilitation and Therapy (excl. Physiotherapy) (110321)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Blackwell Publishing
Copyright Statement: The definitive version is available on publication at
Deposited On: 09 Feb 2009 23:35
Last Modified: 04 May 2016 04:30

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