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Lymphoedema research

Research helps us to find out more about conditions such as lymphoedema. Researchers are looking at what reduces the risk of developing lymphoedema and different ways of managing it.

Why we need research

We have to fully research all treatments before they can become standard treatment for everyone. This is so that we can be sure they are safe and work better than the treatments we already use.

Causes and reducing the risk

We know that surgery to lymph nodes increases the risk of lymphoedema. But not everyone develops it. Research has looked into why some women get swelling after breast cancer surgery and some don’t.

Researchers also looked at genes and the risk of lymphoedema in people who had treatment for breast cancer. They have linked 4 genes to a higher risk of developing lymphoedema.

Knowing who might be at a higher risk of lymphoedema could help doctors to spot it early. Then they can start treatment earlier when it works best.

These are early findings, and we need more research to confirm it. It will be some time before tests for the genes will be available.

Research into managing lymphoedema in breast cancer

Researchers are looking at different ways to manage lymphoedema.  

A study team found that reflexology was a useful treatment for lymphoedema after breast cancer surgery. It reduced swelling and pain in the affected arm and improved quality of life.

Another study is looking into whether wearing a compression sleeve might help prevent lymphoedema.

Last reviewed: 
30 Aug 2019
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database

    Accessed August 2019

  • Assessing the feasibility of using acupuncture and moxibustion to improve quality of life for cancer survivors with upper body lymphoedema

    BA de Valois and others

    European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2012, volume 16, Issue 3

  • Best Practice for the Management of Lymphoedema: an international consensus

    Lymphoedema Framework, 2006

  • Connexin 47 mutations increase risk for secondary lymphedema following breast cancer treatment

    DN Finegold and others

    Clinical Cancer Research, 2012, volume 18, Issue 8

  • Guidelines for the diagnosis, assessment and management of lymphoedema

    Clinical Resource Efficiency Support Team (CREST), 2008

  • Lymphoedema Care
    M Woods
    Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007

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