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Individualized care best for lymphedema patients, MU researcher says
Date:8/10/2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. Millions of American cancer survivors experience chronic discomfort as a result of lymphedema, a common side effect of surgery and radiation therapy in which affected areas swell due to protein-rich fluid buildup. After reviewing published literature on lymphedema treatments, a University of Missouri researcher says emphasizing patients' quality of life rather than focusing solely on reducing swelling is critical to effectively managing the condition.

Jane Armer, professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and director of nursing research at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, said many insurance providers and health care professionals assess whether lymphedema patients need treatment based solely on how swollen their limbs are. However, several studies have shown that the volume of fluid doesn't necessarily correspond with patients' discomfort.

"Practitioners need to treat the swelling while considering patients' distress. We don't want to burden them with unnecessary or ineffective treatments," Armer said. "Health care 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 their literature review, Armer and her colleagues found that Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), a comprehensive approach for treating lymphedema involving skin care, exercise, manual lymphatic drainage and compression of the swollen limbs, may be the best form of specialized lymphedema management.

"Patients have different medical needs and come from culturally diverse backgrounds. They have different goals, support systems, pain levels and treatment tolerances. All these factors influence patients' responses to care, which affects their well-being," said Marcia Beck, a review co-author and an MU graduate who now works at Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo.

"Caring for lymphedema
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Contact: Jesslyn Chew
ChewJ@missouri.edu
573-882-8353
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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