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Lymphat Res Biol. 2019 Feb;17(1):45-50. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2017.0086. Epub 2018 Oct 3.

Complex Decongestive Therapy in Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: Does Obesity Affect the Outcome Negatively?

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Division of Oncologic Rehabilitation and Lymphedema, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Ankara Training and Research Hospital, Ankara, Turkey.



The aim of this prospective clinical study was to compare the long-term efficacy of complex decongestive therapy (CDT) in obese and nonobese patients with breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL).


A total of 59 patients (29 obese patients group 1, 30 normoweight overweight patients group 2) with unilateral BCRL were enrolled. All patients underwent CDT that included manual lymphatic drainage, intermittent pneumatic compression pump, multilayer compression bandaging, lymphedema exercises, and skin care. The CDT was performed for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for 3 weeks. Patients were assessed according to limb volume difference before CDT, after CDT, and after 1 year.


The initial lymphedema volume of group 1 was 866.34 ± 389.34 mL and that of group 2 was 661.84 ± 470.6 mL (p = 0.031). The lymphedema severity percentage of excess volume (PEV) of group 1 was 33.37 ± 15.71 and that of group 2 was 31.86 ± 19.63, which was moderate lymphedema. After 15 sessions of CDT program, in group 1, lymphedema volume decreased to 771.46 ± 389.14 mL (post-CDT p = 0.013) and in group 2, lymphedema volume decreased to 468.38 ± 417.36 mL (post-CDT p < 0.0001), and in group 1, PEV decreased to 28.54 ± 16.84 (post-CDT p = 0.002) and that in group 2 decreased to 22.1 ± 16.87 (post-CDT p < 0.0001). After 1 year, group 1 reached the baseline values of the extremity volumes, but in group 2, the volumes of extremities could maintain their post-CDT values.


Obesity is a factor that deteriorates the CDT efficacy. Early treatment, before developing fat accumulation and fibrosis, must be primary goal in the treatment of BCRL.


breast cancer; complex decongestive therapy; obesity

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