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Lymphedema management in head and neck cancer

Smith, Brad G; Lewin, Jan S

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery: June 2010 - Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p 153–158
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283393799
Speech therapy and rehabilitation: Edited by Bernice K. Klaben

Purpose of review: Head and neck lymphedema (HNL) is a common and often debilitating cancer treatment effect that is under-researched and ill defined. We examined current literature and reviewed historical treatment approaches. We propose a model for evaluation and treatment of HNL used at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) for patients with head and neck cancer (HNC).

Recent findings: Despite the morbidity associated with HNL in patients with HNC, to our knowledge, no article has been published within the past 18 months whose primary focus is HNL. Eight publications included HNL but only as a secondary focus related to treatment effect, risk of dysphagia, prognostic indicator of underlying disease, and quality of life. A potential benefit of selenium treatment to reduce HNL was reported.

Summary: This article highlights the recent literature regarding HNL in patients treated for HNC. Although HNL is reported as a potential complication of HNC treatment, no clear definition of the disease or its management are published. Our early experience using an objective evaluation and treatment protocol holds promise for a better understanding of HNL in patients treated for head and neck malignancy.

Department of Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Brad G. Smith, Department of Head and Neck Surgery – Box 340, Section of Speech-Language Pathology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Box 340, Houston, TX 77030, USA Tel: +1 713 745 5820; e-mail: bradgsmith@mdanderson.org

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.