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Study Seeks to Improve Lymphedema Care

October 16, 2014 | Kathy Rivers

A new Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) study may lead to earlier detection and better outcomes for the 20-30 percent of breast cancer patients with lymphedema, the painful and stigmatizing arm swelling that often results from treatment.

The study is testing bioimpedance spectroscopy, a device where electrodes are placed on the patient’s arms so that the fluid buildup can be accurately measured. The randomized study is enrolling 1,100 research subjects over two years at five sites in the United States and Australia.

“Many in the health care community, and even breast cancer patients, don’t understand that this lifelong arm swelling is a possible result of breast cancer treatment, but others of us have been working on this issue for decades,” said principal investigator Sheila Ridner, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Nursing.

Typically, lymphedema measurements are done with a tape measure, much like a household tape measure. The condition is often managed using compression garments and exercise. This study will take a closer look to see if early detection with bioimpedance spectroscopy prevents progression to chronic lymphedema.

“The ultimate goal is to help those with lymphedema have better health outcomes and increased quality of life living with this condition,” Ridner said.

Ridner is also conducting research funded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
This study is funded by ImpediMed, based in Brisbane, Australia.