Results: 116 participants completed the study After one year 4 w

Results: 116 participants completed the study. After one year 4 women in the early physiotherapy and education group had developed lymphoedema and 14 women in the education group had developed lymphodoema. Therefore one case of lymphodoema was prevented for every 6 women treated with the early physiotherapy program (95% CI 3 to 20). At 12 months the average volume of the affected arm was

1.6% greater than the unaffected arm in the early physiotherapy group but 5.1% greater in the education group. The survival analysis showed that lymphoedema was diagnosed four times earlier in the education group than in the early physiotherapy group (hazard ratio 0.26, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.79). Conclusion: A relatively short-term early physiotherapy program involving manual lymph drainage, scar massage, exercise and education can reduce the incidence of lymphoedema in the

first 12 months after surgery for breast cancer. [95% CIs calculated by the CAP Co-ordinator.] Lymphoedema remains a prevalent and potentially debilitating side Epigenetic inhibitor effect of breast cancer treatment. Data from recent research studies suggest that the incidence of lymphoedema after axillary node dissection and radiation therapy ranges from 10% to 31% (Shih 2009, Thomas-McLean 2008, Hayes 2008). Lately, attention has focused on early detection and management of lymphoedema using sensitive measurement techniques (Thomas-McLean 2008, Stout-Gergich 2008). This study is to date the largest randomised controlled mafosfamide trial examining the benefit of early comprehensive physiotherapy in this group of patients. This single-centre trial with blinded outcome assessment provides evidence in support of early physiotherapy

to prevent lymphoedema after axillary node dissection surgery for breast cancer. In the study, 18 women (16%) developed lymphoedema over the 12-month post-operative period, with 14 cases occurring in the control group and 4 cases in the intervention group. It is not clear, however, whether some of the cases of lymphoedema that developed were transient increases in limb volume or the more chronic form of the condition (present for > 3 to 6 months). Further follow-up may have been helpful to distinguish whether some of the cases may have dissipated over time (Hayes 2008). The early physiotherapy program examined in this study included 9 physiotherapy treatment sessions delivered over a 3-week period by physiotherapists with specialised training. The program was similar in approach to the Physiotherapy Management Care Plan proposed in 2002 (Box et al 2002). While the analysis shows a potential protective benefit, given the relatively small numbers that developed lymphoedema, the cost in terms of time and finances (and the need for physiotherapist specialist training) may make routine provision of this early physiotherapy program prohibitive.

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