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Early diagnosis and compression treatment are important to prevent progression in breast cancer-related arm lymphedema (BCRAL). However, some mild BCRAL can be reversible, and therefore, compression treatment may not be needed. The aim of this study was to investigate the proportion of women with mild BCRAL showing progression/no progression of lymphedema after treatment with or without compression garments, differences in changes of lymphedema relative volume (LRV), local tissue water and subjective symptoms during 6 months. Also, adherence to self-care was examined. Seventy-five women diagnosed with mild BCRAL were randomized to a compression group (CG) or noncompression group (NCG). Both groups received self-care instructions, and the CG were treated with a standard compression garment (ccl 1). Women in the NCG who progressed in LRV ≥2%, or exceeded 10% dropped out, and received appropriate treatment. The proportion showing progression/no progression of LRV, and changes in LRV was measured by Water Displacement Method. Changes in local tissue water were measured by Tissue Dielectric Constant (TDC), subjective symptoms by Visual Analogue Scale, and self-care by a questionnaire. A smaller proportion of LRV progression was found in the CG compared to the NCG at 1, 2 and 6 months follow-up (p ≤ 0.013). At 6 months, 16% had progression of LRV in the CG, compared to 57% in the NCG, (p = 0.001). Thus, 43% in the NCG showed no progression and could manage without compression. Also, CG had a larger reduction in LRV, at all time-points (p ≤ 0.005), and in the highest TDC ratio, when same site followed, at 6 months (p = 0.025). Subjective symptoms did not differ between the groups, except at 1 month, where the CG experienced more reduced tension (p = 0.008). There were no differences in adherence to self-care. Early treatment with compression garment can prevent progression in mild BCRAL. Trial registration: ISRCT nr ISRCTN51918431.


Katarina Y Blom, Karin I Johansson, Lena B Nilsson-Wikmar, Christina B Brogårdh. Early intervention with compression garments prevents progression in mild breast cancer-related arm lymphedema: a randomized controlled trial. Acta oncologica (Stockholm, Sweden). 2022 Jul;61(7):897-905

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PMID: 35657063

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