Background: Lymphedema following breast cancer treatment is one of the most morbid conditions affecting breast cancer survivors. Currently, no therapy completely cures this condition. Comprehensive Decongestive Therapy (CDT), a novel physiotherapeutic method offers promising results in managing this condition. This therapy is being widely used in the West. Till date, there are no studies evaluating the effectiveness and feasibility of this therapy in the east.
Materials and Methods: The therapeutic responses of 25 patients with postmastectomy lymphedema were analyzed prospectively in this study. Each patient received an intensive phase of therapy for eight days from trained physiotherapists, which included manual lymphatic drainage, multi layered compression bandaging, exercises, and skin care. Instruction in self management techniques were given to the patients on completion of intensive therapy. The patients were followed up for three months. Changes in the volume of the edematous limb were assessed with a geometric approximation derived from serial circumference measurements of the limb and by water displacement volumetry. Changes in skin and sub cutis thickness were assessed using high frequency ultrasound.
Results: The reduction in limb volume observed after therapy was 32.3% and 42% of the excess, by measurement and volumetry, respectively. The maximum reduction was obtained after the intensive phase. The reduction in skin and subcutis thickness of the edematous limb followed the same pattern as volume reduction. Patients could maintain the reduction obtained by strictly following the protocols of the maintenance phase.
Conclusions: CDT combined with long-term self management is effective in treating post mastectomy lymphedema. The tropical climate is a major factor limiting the regular use of bandages by the patients.