Lymphoedema causes swelling and hardening of the arm in up to a quarter of breast cancer patients who have multiple lymph nodes removed as part of their breast cancer treatment. Lymphoedema of the arm can also be caused by taxanes, a type of cancer drug, and breast lymphoedema is increasing as more women have breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy). The discomfort and swelling caused by lymphoedema can be severe, and treatment options are limited.
“In Australia and the USA, laser is seen as a low-cost, safe and effective treatment for breast cancer-related lymphoedema to reduce limb volume and improve function,” said Professor Baxter. “But most studies have been small-scale, and LLLT isn’t established in New Zealand at all. This study is a chance to see how well it works for our patients in our treatment environment.”
Professor David Baxter and his team will evaluate the potential effectiveness of low level laser therapy (LLLT) for breast cancer-related lymphoedema, its acceptability to patients and therapists, and the feasibility of incorporating the treatment into existing clinical practice within New Zealand’s hospitals.