McNeely, M.L., Peddle, C.J., Yurick, J.L., Dayes, I.S., & Mackey, J.R. (2011). Conservative and dietary interventions for cancer-related lymphedema: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer, 117(6), 1136–1148.doi: 10.1002/cncr.25513
To update evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) regarding benefits of conservative and dietary interventions for all cancer-related lymphedema
Of the 157 papers that were initially retrieved, a final set of 25 were included. A modified Jadad scoring was used to evaluated the quality of the evidence. Only eight studies met criteria for high quality. Meta-analysis was done for studies examining the effect of manual lymph drainage (MLD)for upper-extremity lymphedema with breast cancer.
Results were synthesized in terms of effects on lymphedema volume and patient-rated outcomes of pain, heaviness, tenderness and quality of life for nine interventions. Most studies were limited to upper extremities; where lower extremities were included is stated below.
Meta-analysis demonstrated significant but relatively small benefit from the addition of MLS in patients with breast cancer-related lymphedema. Findings support the growing body of evidence that participation in exercise does not exacerbate lymphedema and can reduce the severity of symptoms. Only two studies were found that examined nutrition and dietary interventions; these reported benefit in terms of volume reduction, but were of relatively low quality. Evidence suggests that compression garments and bandaging are effective in reducing limb volume with various types of cancer.
Only eight studies in this review were deemed to be of high quality.
Inclusion of MLD provides a relatively small added benefit and may be associated with substantial costs. It is not clear if the benefits outweigh the cost and MLD may be most useful for patients who do not achieve sufficient improvement with other effective approaches. Findings related to dietary interventions are promising, pointing to the value of additional research in this area. Breast cancer continues to be the most frequently studied group. Research in other groups and with lower-limb lymphedema is needed.