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Acupuncture for Lymphedema

New evidence suggests that acupuncture may help relieve lymphedema of the arm, an accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, and a condition that frequently follows a radical mastectomy for breast cancer. A study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City showed that acupuncture for lymphedema is safe and well-tolerated. Participating patients had acupuncture twice a week for four weeks. Of the 33 patients taking part in the study, 11 had a significant reduction in swelling of the affected arm and another 18 had at least a small reduction, the researchers reported online on April 10, 2013 in the journal Cancer. Several weeks after their acupuncture sessions, patients said they saw lasting improvement in alleviating swelling. A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture for patients who have had lymphedema for at least six months despite conventional treatment is now underway to assess the potential benefits of acupuncture and how long they last. The study is expected to conclude in October 2014.

Sources:
Barrie Cassileth et al, “Acupuncture in the treatment of upper-limb lymphedema: Results of a pilot study.” Cancer July 1, 2013 119(13):2455-61. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28093. Epub 2013 Apr 10

“Acupuncture for Chronic Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Treatment,” Clinicaltrials.gov, accessed July 19, 2013 http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01706081