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CA Cancer J Clin. 2000 Sep-Oct;50(5):292-307; quiz 308-11.

Lymphedema: current issues in research and management.

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Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, NY, USA.


Lymphedema is a common and troublesome problem that can develop following breast cancer treatment. As with other quality-of-life and nonlethal conditions, it receives less research funding and attention than do many other areas of study. In 1998, an invited workshop sponsored by the American Cancer Society reviewed and evaluated the current state of knowledge about lymphedema. Recommendations and research initiatives proposed by the 60 international participants are presented in the conclusion section of the article, following a summary of current knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, detection, and current treatment of lymphedema. The etiology of lymphedema is multifaceted; all of the factors that contribute to the condition and the nature of their interaction have not yet been identified. To compound the problem, methods of assessing the degree of arm and hand swelling vary and are not agreed upon, and reliable methods of assessing the functional impact of lymphedema have not yet been developed. In the absence of a cure for lymphedema, precautions and prevention are emphasized. Current treatments include elevation, elastic garments, pneumatic compression pumps, and complete decongestive therapy; surgical and medical techniques remain controversial. Elements and details of these treatments are described.

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