MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--After enduring the punishing effects of cancer treatment, millions of patients face another formidable foe: lymphedema. Lymphedema is commonly caused by cancer treatments including lymph node removal or lymphatic vessel damage due to radiation or scarring. This impairment of the lymphatic system prevents lymph fluid, an important component in a healthy immune system, from naturally moving through the body. Over time, the lymphatic blockage leads to fluid buildup and significant swelling of the tissues which can be painful and is often associated with a loss of function, high risk of infection, and lower quality of life.
While lymphedema is a chronic, progressive condition, its symptoms can be controlled with various treatments. Yet most Americans, including many healthcare professionals, are uninformed about the disease, its causes, and effective therapies to treat it. As a result, lymphedema is often misdiagnosed, treated too late, or not treated at all.
Now, a new peer-reviewed study provides the first evidence that use of a pneumatic compression device, or PCD, resulted in improved health (e.g., fewer hospitalizations, infections, and office visits) and reduced the cost of care for patients suffering from cancer-related lymphedema. It is also the first population-based estimate of the prevalence of lymphedema among cancer survivors, a larger population than previously known.
The study measured the frequency with which lymphedema is newly diagnosed, finding that patients who used at-home PCDs used fewer health resources and reduced their healthcare costs by $11,333 over a 12-month period. Most importantly, the study showed that the prevalence of lymphedema among cancer survivors in the United States is increasing, growing from a rate of 0.95 percent in 2007 to 1.24 percent in 2013 – a 30 percent increase.
Mari, a 42-year-old breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed with lymphedema following the conclusion of radiation treatment. After learning more about the condition, Mari felt better informed, but was concerned about how she would be able to manage her condition.
“I wondered if there would be life after lymphedema,” she recalls. After learning of the Flexitouch system, an at-home PCD, Mari began using the device and was delighted at the results. Her swelling was significantly reduced and she was able to effectively manage her condition at home. “I no longer have to follow the tedious and time consuming process of bandaging my arm every day. Flexitouch has been a godsend for me.”
The study was led by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including Dr. Stanley Rockson from Stanford University, Dr. Andrea Cheville from Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Alan T. Hirsch from the University of Minnesota.
“Prior to this study, it was not fully appreciated how often cancer patients suffered from lymphedema and we were surprised to learn that the number of patients was increasing this rapidly,” said Dr. Rockson. “It seems to me that the patients and health care providers in the oncology community should become more aware that this diagnosis should always be considered at every follow-up visit.”
“This study can serve as a wake-up call to the public, health professionals and payers,” said Dr. Alan T. Hirsch, director of the Vascular Medicine Program at the University of Minnesota. “For decades, lymphedema has been misunderstood, and too often, ignored. When ignored, patients simply suffer.” Dr. Hirsch also serves as Chief Medical Officer of Tactile Medical, a role he utilizes to help direct clinical research on the disease. “Untreated, lymphedema makes life miserable for those it affects. Yet, as this study illustrates, when patients receive a timely diagnosis and effective treatment, health improves and higher healthcare costs can be avoided. PCD use achieves the goal desired by healthcare providers, patients and payers: Improved health and lower costs. This is ‘as good as it gets’ in modern health care.”
The study, Lymphedema Prevalence and Treatment Benefits in Cancer: Impact of a Therapeutic Intervention on Health Outcomes and Costs, [Kimberly M. Brayton, Alan T. Hirsch, Patricia J. O′Brien, Andrea Cheville, Pinar Karaca-Mandic, Stanley G. Rockson. PLOS One. 2014 Dec. 3: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114597. eCollection 2014.] was recently published by PLOS ONE, an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal produced by the Public Library of Science.
About Tactile Medical
Tactile Medical (formerly Tactile Systems Technology Inc.), headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a leader in lymphedema and venous ulcer therapies, serving tens of thousands of patients throughout the U.S. Tactile’s mission is to advance the standard of care in treating chronic diseases at home, improving patients’ health and quality of life, and reducing healthcare costs.
PCDs, like Tactile Medical’s Flexitouch® device, have been proven to significantly stimulate the lymphatic system, reduce limb volume, and reduce rates of hospitalization and infection. By enabling patients to perform successful at-home self-management of their condition, patients can achieve a better level of health, reduce the cost of care, and improve their quality of life.
Visit www.tactilemedical.com for more information.