Simple compression bandages
are as effective as complicated massage treatments in treating the swollen arms
of breast cancer patients, according to a new study.
This swelling of the arms – called lymphedema – is a complication of breast cancer treatment that can
last a long time. It affects between 6% and 30% of patients, and
can cause discomfort, reduced arm function, infection and emotional distress.
The six-week study included
about 100 Canadian breast cancer patients with arm swelling.
The patients were divided
into two groups. One group wore elastic compression sleeves and gloves for 12
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
Results of the study
The women in the massage
group also wore compression bandages on their arms and hands the rest of the
day and night. After the month of massage treatment, they wore elastic
compression sleeves and gloves during the day, the same as the other group.
Regular assessments of the
women's arm size and function, as well as quality of life, showed no
significant difference in the effectiveness of the two treatment methods,
according to the researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
The study was published in
a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"In the future,
patients who receive or can only afford elastic sleeves and gloves should be
comforted knowing that their care has not been compromised," lead author
Dr. Ian Dayes, an associate professor of oncology, said in a university news
The American Cancer Society
has more about lymphedema after breast cancer treatment.