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Treatment of Lymphedema with Saam Acupuncture in Patients with Breast Cancer: A Pilot Study.

Background: Lymphedema is a troublesome complication affecting quality of life (QoL) in many women after breast-cancer treatment. Recent studies have suggested that acupuncture can reduce symptoms of lymphedema in breast-cancer survivors. Objectives: This was a pilot study. It was designed to assess the feasibility and the safety of acupuncture with the Saam acupuncture method for treating lymphedema in Korean patients after surgical therapy for breast cancer. Materials and Methods: This was a prospective, single-arm, observational pilot study using before and after measurements. The study was conducted at the East-West Medical Center at the Daegu Catholic University Medical Center, in Daegu, Korea. The subjects were 9 patients with breast cancer who presented with lymphedema of the upper limb ipsilateral to surgery. Saam acupuncture was administered 3 times per week for 6 consecutive weeks, for 30±5 minutes at each session.The primary outcome measure was severity of lymphedema as assessed by stages of lymphedema, a visual analogue scale (VAS), and by circumferential measurements of the upper extremity. The secondary outcome measure was QoL, which was assessed by a self-administered questionnaire using the Short Form-36 questionnaire. Results: Acupuncture reduced severity of lymphedema significantly, as assessed by the VAS (P<0.001) as well as by circumferential measurements of the upper extremity. Four weeks after the final treatment, symptoms were not aggravated. SF-36 scores remained significant for health status at the end of treatment. Conclusions: The Saam acupuncture method appeared to provide reduction of lymphedema among women after they had undergone surgery for breast cancer. A randomized, controlled prospective study with a larger sample size is required to clarify the role of acupuncture for managing lymphedema in patients with breast cancer.

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