The medical records of nine women who had acquired lymphedema as a sequela to a modified radical mastectomy for breast cancer were analyzed to ascertain what factors, phenomena, or experiences in their lymphedema treatment may have influenced outcomes. The women were identified as having either successful or poor outcomes. Their conservative lymphedema treatment consisted of compression pumps, compression garments, and, in some cases, manual lymph drainage.
The qualitative analysis of records implicated the following factors in the outcome of conservative lymphedema treatment for these women: (a) the amount of delay before starting compression treatment, (b) the size of the lymphedematous arm when treatment started, (c) the availability of social and financial supports, and (d) the presence of complicating health problems. The findings of this study cannot be generalized; however, further scientific inquiry into the phenomena that lie behind treatment outcome variations could lead to more effective treatment approaches.