Photobiomodulation Therapy Looks Promising in Improving Lymphedema Associated with Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

PURPOSE: Lymphedema is a common debilitating late effect among patients post-head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment. Head and neck lymphedema was associated with symptom burden, functional impairment, and decreased quality of life. The objective of this study was to determine the feasibility and potential efficacy of the use of photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy for head and neck lymphedema, symptom burden, and neck range of motion among HNC survivors.

METHODS: This was a single-arm, pre- and post-design clinical trial. Eligible patients included those with lymphedema after completion of complete decongestive therapy (CDT) and 3 to 18 months after completion of cancer therapy. The intervention included PBM therapy 2 times a week for 6 weeks for a total of 12 treatments. Lymphedema, symptom burden, and neck range of motion were measured at baseline, end-of-intervention, and 4-week post-intervention.

RESULTS: Of the 12 patients enrolled in the study, 91.7% (n = 11) completed the study intervention and assessment visits, and no adverse events were reported. When comparing the baseline to 4-week post-intervention, we found statistically significant improvements in the severity of external lymphedema, symptom burden, and neck range of motion (all P less than .05).

CONCLUSION: PBM therapy was feasible and potentially effective for the treatment of head and neck lymphedema. Future randomized controlled trials are warranted to examine the efficacy of PBM therapy for HNC-related lymphedema.

Deng J, et al. Photobiomodulation Therapy in Head and Neck Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Pilot Feasibility Study. Integr Cancer Ther. 2021; 20: 15347354211037938.