Tailored care helps breast cancer survivors reduce swelling, pain

MU study examines breast cancer survivors’ experiences managing lymphedema.

April 8, 2022


Pate McCuien: For survivors of breast cancer, the surgical removal of lymph nodes or radiation to the lymph nodes that may have occurred during treatment increases the risk of developing lymphedema, a chronic condition of swelling caused by disruptions to the body’s lymphatic system.

In a recent study, assistant professor Allison Anbari of the MU Sinclair School of Nursing sought to better understand how rural Missourians manage their lymphedema after surviving breast cancer.

Anbari: We found that the participants in our study really learned over time how to manage best their lymphedema symptoms and sometimes that involved wearing compression garments and sometimes that involved a self-massage. In these rural and small towns in Missouri, they really had this self-determination and motivation to not let breast cancer related lymphedema bring them down.

McCuien: Anbari added that the participants became aware of activities that can trigger swelling or discomfort, and were able to make adjustments as needed.

Anbari: Things as simple as lifting boxes from shelves, taking care of grandchildren or gardening, those are all activities that if done at length or strenuously, are going to increase swelling, pain or discomfort, and sometimes mobility issues as well. To remedy that, our participants used self-massage techniques, moving that lymphatic fluid manually with our hands from the areas that are swollen to an area of the lymphatic system that is still functioning at high levels.

McCuien: Anbari’s research can help improve both health outcomes and overall quality of life for breast cancer survivors.

For more on this research, visit showme.missouri.edu.

I’m Pate McCuien, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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