Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2007 , Vol 53 , Num 1

Effectiveness of Exercise and Compression Garments in the Treatment of Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema

Jale İrdesel 1 ,Sibel Kahraman Çeliktaş 2
1 Uludağ Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi Fiziksel Tıp ve Rehabilitasyon Anabilim Dalı,Bursa
2 Uludağ Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi, Radyasyon Onkolojisi Anabilim Dalı, Bursa

Objective: Lymphedema (LE) is a long term and important complication observed in patients with breast cancer that causes functional impairment and affects the quality of life. Total recovery could not be reached by current treatments. Therapeutic efforts remain focused on minimizing the edema and on reversing and restoring the functional and cosmetic nature of the limb. There are a limited number of randomized, controlled studies looking for the effectiveness of treatments, either seperately or combined. This study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of exercise and compression garment in the treatment of breast cancer related LE.

Materials and Methods: Nineteen patients with breast cancer related LE were randomly assigned to receive exercises (n=9) or exercises and compression garment (n=10). The efficacy of treatment was evaluated by reduction in lymphedema volume which was determined by measurement of arm circumference and by improvement in shoulder range of motion and in symptoms potentially related to lymphedema such as pain and tender points. 

Results: The patients were followed-up for a total of six months. Almost all parameters improved in the second group whereas no significant improvement was seen in the first group.

Conclusion: As a conclusion, it can be suggested that the combination of compression garments and exercise therapy is an effective and simple way of treating LE. Since none of the treatment methods offer full recovery, educating the patients about the formation and characteristics of LE and preventive measures are very important.  

Keywords : Breast cancer, lymphedema, treatment, exercise, and compression garment