Original Article

Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 383-392

First online:

Aqua lymphatic therapy in women who suffer from breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema: a randomized controlled study

  • Dorit TidharAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Therapy, “Maccabi Healthcare Services”
  • , Michal Katz-LeurerAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Therapy, School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University Email author 

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Abstract

Background

Lymphedema is an adverse effect of breast cancer surgery. Aqua lymphatic therapy (ALT) is a novel treatment for limb volume reduction.

Objective

The aim of this study was to examine whether ALT is a safe method and whether there are differences in adherence, limb volume, and quality of life between women who perform only self-management treatment and women who participate as well in ALT.

Design

Design of the study was single-blind randomized clinical trial.

Setting

The setting was in a hydrotherapy pool, 1.2 m depth, and a temperature of 32–33°С.

Patients

Forty-eight women (56 ± 10 years), with a 12.8% lymphedema relative volume, participated in the study.

Intervention

The control group was instructed to perform the self-management treatment. The study group joined a weekly session of ALT for 3 months in addition to the self-management therapy.

Measurements

Adherence was assessed by a self-reported diary, limb volume by a water displacement device, quality of life by the Upper Limb Lymphedema Questionnaire (ULL27), prior to, and after the intervention period.

Results

There was no episode of arm infection or aggravation in limb volume during the study period. ALT had a positive, statistically and clinically significant immediate effect on limb volume but no long-term effect was noted. The adherence rate to ALT was significantly higher than the adherence to self-management therapy. QOL improved in the study group.

Conclusion

ALT was found to be a safe method, with high adherence, in treating women who suffer from mild to moderate lymphedema. A significant immediate and insignificant long-term effect on limb volume was noted.

Keywords

Aqua therapy Breast cancer Lymphedema