Acupuncture to Treat Chronic Lymphoedema

Just came across two Acupuncture research publications from my former hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). The research was initiated because of the lack of treatment for lymphoedema in women post breast cancer surgery with removal of lymph nodes in the armpits. Having formerly worked in the breast cancer surgery department at MSK I can attest to it being a huge concern for women and their physicians. Not only is there emotional trauma from being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a treatment (whether it be chemotherapy, radiation, mastectomy, lymph node removal, or a combination), there are also post surgery issues that leave a lot of scars and daily stresses. Lymphoedema is one of them.

Imagine not being able to lower your arm fully because of the swelling, the physical pain of the weight, not being able to lift anything with the affected arm, the visual reminder that it is double the size as the opposite arm, nurses and physicians not being able to access the veins for treatment, and the difficulty finding clothing that fits arms that are two different sizes.

In 2011 MSK did a pilot study using Acupuncture on women with lymphoedema that was >2cm circumference than the unaffected arm. Treatments lasted twice a week for four weeks. Response was defined as at least 30% reduction in the difference in size between affected and unaffected arms. The results show that nearly 45% of participants met the goal of reduction in arm size by at least 30%!!

In 2013 MSK enrolled 37 patients onto a second study and 33% of women exhibited a reduction of > 30% reduction in arm size. Not all patients completed all treatment requirements. No serious adverse events, infections, or issues after 255 treatment sessions and six months of follow-ups.

Know anyone having issues with lymphoedema? We can help.


Lymphoedema protocol