Research Needed to Improve Palliative Care of Cancer-Related Lymphedema

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – There is limited information for health care providers to effectively manage cancer-related lymphedema in the palliative care setting, according to an international team of researchers. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Palliative Care for Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Systematic Review,” which was published in the July issue of the Journal of Palliative Care.

Providing palliative care for a cancer patient can be a daunting task, filled with many clinical challenges. Lymphedema, defined as localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, is one of those challenges. This review article focused on the management of cancer-related lymphedema in the palliative care setting. To address this unmet need in health care, the investigators conducted a systematic review of the published literature on the topic. From 11 medical databases, the investigators searched manuscripts published from January 2004 to October 30, 2011, ultimately selecting 11 articles for final review.

When the search concluded, the investigators “identified 5 case studies that addressed closed-controlled subcutaneous drainage; 1 retrospective study on manual lymphatic drainage (MLD); 2 case studies on compression therapy; and 3 case studies on complete decongestive therapy (CDT).”  The investigators concluded that there is a need for “larger, well-designed research studies to test the effectiveness of management of cancer-related lymphedema in palliative care.”

With such a limited number of research studies on palliative care in this specific cancer patient population, care of these patients is not likely to be improved. Review articles, such as this one, is likely to prompt further research into this unmet medical need. 


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