Lymphedema in Legs Strikes 1 in 3 Female Cancer Survivors

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THURSDAY, March 10, 2022 (HealthDay Information)

After surviving cancer, many older girls undergo extreme leg swelling that interferes with on a regular basis life, a brand new research finds.

About one-third of older girls develop this persistent situation — referred to as lymphedema — after therapy for colon, uterine or ovarian cancer, in keeping with the study.

“Older cancer survivors who expertise decrease extremity lymphedema are in danger for decreases in bodily functioning and talent to carry out actions of day by day residing,” mentioned senior researcher Electra Paskett. She is a professor of cancer analysis at Ohio State College in Columbus.

The situation can have an effect on cancer survivors’ high quality of life and it has implications for general dying charges, Paskett added.

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling, heaviness, pain, discomfort and decreased mobility in legs and arms. It’s a frequent facet impact of cancer therapy.

The dysfunction impacts an individual’s means to stroll or stand for lengthy durations or to raise heavy objects. It could possibly additionally trigger persistent infections within the arms, hips or legs that, in extreme circumstances, may end up in lack of a limb.

Dr. Susan Maltser, director of cancer rehabilitation at Northwell Well being in New Hyde Park, N.Y., mentioned lymphedema can occur when some cancer therapies disrupt the physique’s lymph system, which helps preserve fluid ranges within the physique.

“When a affected person has surgical procedure for most cancers, lymph nodes are often taken out to be able to forestall the most cancers from spreading,” Maltser mentioned. “As well as, many sufferers have radiation therapy, which might goal lymph nodes as nicely.”

When lymph nodes are both eliminated or affected by radiation remedy, it creates a backup of lymphatic fluid, which causes swelling, mentioned Maltser, who had no half within the research.

Males, too, can develop lymphedema after most cancers therapy, she added.

Early detection and therapy are keys to managing lymphedema.

Paskett advised that “older most cancers survivors must be screened for decrease extremity lymphedema, and if there may be swelling, they need to be promptly referred to bodily remedy for therapy and influence on bodily functioning.”

For the research, her crew collected knowledge on 900 postmenopausal girls (common age: 79) with endometrial, colon or ovarian cancer. On common, their most cancers had been identified 9 years earlier.

In contrast with girls who didn’t undergo from lymphedema of their legs, those that did reported considerably impaired bodily operate, the researchers discovered.

That impairment tremendously affected colon cancer survivors. Amongst them, practically 22% had considerably weakened bodily operate and wanted assist with day by day actions, resembling walking, standing for lengthy durations or lifting heavy objects.

This danger was decrease in survivors of endometrial or ovarian cancer.

Maltser mentioned therapy for lymphedema has two components and is finest finished by a licensed lymphedema therapist, often a bodily or occupational therapist.

“The primary half is specialised massage by way of very particular lymphatic tracts to get the lymphatic fluid out of the affected arm or leg and circulating by way of the physique,” she mentioned.

The second half is compression. “If someone has lymphedema of their arm, we do a compression sleeve. If they’ve lymphedema of their leg, it is a compression stocking. If it is of their groin, it is compression shorts,” Maltser mentioned.


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Sadly, she added, these compression clothes usually are not lined by Medicare, the federal medical health insurance program for U.S. seniors.

“[It] doesn’t cowl the sleeves and the stockings that the sufferers want to make use of for all times,” Maltser mentioned. “So that is very troublesome for our sufferers in underserved communities who can not afford these very costly clothes.”

As a result of therapy is only when begun early, she urged sufferers to be looking out for the early indicators of lymphedema, together with swelling but in addition heaviness, aching and a sense of discomfort within the affected limb.

Maltser mentioned medical doctors ought to inform their sufferers concerning the potential of creating lymphedema earlier than their most cancers therapy.

“We do not need sufferers to attend till their arm or leg blows up and is swollen to let their physician know. We wish sufferers to be educated previous to having surgical procedure,” she mentioned.

Lymphedema could be managed, nevertheless it by no means goes away. “However,” Maltser mentioned, “we will get somebody to the place it is nearly like they do not have it.”

The analysis was revealed on-line March 9 in JAMA Network Open.

Extra info

For extra on lymphedema, head to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Electra Paskett, PhD, professor, most cancers analysis, Ohio State College, Columbus; Susan Maltser, DO, director, most cancers rehabilitation, Northwell Well being, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; JAMA Community Open, March 9, 2022, on-line

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