Physical Therapists Help Detect Lymphedema

There was a recent study made which 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 study’s lead author, Nicole L Stout Gergich, PT, MPT, CLT-LANA, of the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) Breast Care Center, in Bethesda, Maryland.

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