NYC LogoPatients who receive added information about lymphedema seemed to have reported considerably lesser symptoms for the condition. Also, these patients were noted to have followed novel risk-reducing behaviors. This analysis was discovered by study co-author, Deborah Axelrod, MD, associate professor in the department of surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center and a member of the NYU Cancer Institute.

Apparently, risk-reducing behaviors contain elevating the affected limb in order to promote fluid drainage, avoiding blood draws and injections to the affected limb and avoiding tight-fitting clothing. Tight-fitting clothing could possibly worsen the symptoms.

Co-author Mei R. Fu, RN, PhD, ACNS-BC, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at New York University, was of the opinion that this is the foremost study to have illustrated that education could perhaps decrease the risk of lymphedema.

Lymphedema is known to be a condition which results in the abnormal and debilitating swelling of the extremities. This abnormal swelling of the extremities may perhaps result in breast cancer surgery.

Fu further stated that, “Nurses can play a leadership role in educating patients about lymphedema and can play a role in improving the quality of life in cancer survivors.”

Supposedly, this condition’s physical symptoms include swelling, firmness, pain, fatigue, numbness and impaired limb mobility. However, it also appears to affect the patients with fibrosis, cellulitis, infections and septicemia.

“I believe that anyone undergoing breast cancer surgery—whether it is a sentinel node biopsy alone or more extensive axillary surgery—should be informed about the risks of lymphedema. Until now, we had little evidence of the effectiveness of the behaviors to recognize and reduce symptoms,” says Dr. Axelrod.

It was estimated that nearly 30 percent of the 2.4 million breast cancer survivors in the United States have developed lymphedema. Also, they all seem to be at a lifetime risk.

Dr. Axelrod further added, “It is important to identify the early warning signs and symptoms of the condition, as well as determine what interventions to take. We also enroll patients into ongoing behavior and risk modification trials and work with physical therapists to ensure symptom reduction.”

In addition, this condition also affects the survivors psychologically, as they often feel stigmatized because of the swollen limb which repeatedly appears to bring about anxiety, depression and disruption of interpersonal relationships.