APTA Responds to US News & World Report on Lymphedema

March 19, 2009

Dear Editor:

As president of the American Physical Therapy Association's Section on Women's Health, I read with great interest your March 17, 2009, article (Lymphedema Raises Cost of Breast Cancer Care) about the costs in both physical and monetary terms, of this often-overlooked condition.

Physical therapists reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery or the side effects of prescription medications. This is especially important in today's economy in which patients are making serious decisions about their health care based on treatment costs.

A study in the journal, Cancer (April 25, 2008), conducted by the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with the University of Michigan-Flint and George Mason University, showed that pre-operative assessments of patients with breast cancer by physical therapists allow for early diagnosis and successful treatment of lymphedema.

The study showed that detection and management of lymphedema at early stages may prevent the condition from progressing to a chronic, disabling stage and may enable a more cost-effective, conservative intervention.

We encourage patients with breast cancer to empower themselves and ask questions regarding their treatment so that early intervention and conservative treatment of lymphedema becomes a standard component of care.


Wendy M. Featherstone, PT
President, APTA Section on Women's Health