Self-Management Strategies for Malignant Lymphedema: A Case Report with 1-Year and 4-Year Follow-Up Data.
Shirin Shallwani, Anna M. Towers
Physiotherapy Can. 2018;70(3):204-211
Purpose: Malignant lymphedema is an accumulation of interstitial fluid caused by tumour infiltration or compression of lymphatic vessels. Our objective is to describe self-management strategies for malignant lymphedema using a case report.
Client Description: A 50-year-old woman with advanced breast cancer was referred to our centre with a 3-month history of unexplained left-arm edema, subsequently diagnosed as malignant lymphedema caused by tumour compression of the axillary lymph nodes.
Intervention: She undertook a physiotherapist-guided, modified lymphedema treatment programme, with self-management interventions including self-bandaging and exercise. Limb volumes and leisure exercise levels were measured over a 1-year period. Data were collected from her follow-up visit 4 years post-diagnosis of lymphedema.
Measures and Outcome: Within the first month, the patient’s excess limb volume reduced from 26.8% to 5.9% and, 1 year later, remained stable at 3%. Over time, her exercise levels increased (1-year follow-up: 33.5 MET-hours per week). At 4 years, her excess limb volume was 9.7%, and exercise levels were at 36 MET-hours per week.
Implications: A woman with moderate malignant arm lymphedema caused by advanced breast cancer successfully adhered to a guided self-management programme and benefited from reduced swelling and improved self-reported physical function in the long term. This case provides oncology health professionals with knowledge about self-management options for malignant lymphedema.