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New study shows positive role physical therapists play in lymphedema diagnois and treatment
Date:5/23/2008

ALEXANDRIA, VA, May 21, 2008 A recent study shows that pre-operative assessments of patients with breast cancer by physical therapists allow for early diagnosis and successful treatment of lymphedema.

The study, conducted by the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in collaboration with the University of Michigan-Flint and George Mason University, was published in the journal, Cancer (April 25, 2008). The authors demonstrated the effectiveness of a surveillance program that included pre-operative limb volume measurement and interval post-operative follow-up to successfully detect and treat lymphedema, a chronic and often irreversible condition that can cause significant swelling of the upper and lower extremities due to the build-up of excess lymph fluid.

This study is significant for several reasons, but none more so than it showing that detection and management of lymphedema at early stages may prevent the condition from progressing to a chronic, disabling stage and may enable a more cost-effective, conservative intervention, said American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) spokesperson and the studys lead author, Nicole L Stout Gergich, PT, MPT, CLT-LANA, of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) Breast Care Center, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Breast cancer related lymphedema is associated with decreased arm function, disability and diminished quality of life. If the condition is not diagnosed early and managed, it can progress to a situation where the patient is at risk for infection and further shoulder complications. The swelling is disfiguring and many times prohibits patients from finding clothes that fit properly.

Stout noted that the baseline pre-operative assessment of 196 patients with breast cancer participating in the study which was conducted from 2001 to 2005 included basic strength, range of motion, limb volume, and physical activity level. To measure limb v
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Contact: Stephanie Block
stephanieblock@apta.org
703-706-3397
American Physical Therapy Association
Source:Eurekalert

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