Perceived Symptom Experience in Head and Neck Cancer Patients with Lymphedema

Jie Deng*, Sheila Ridner, Russell Rothman, Barbara Murphy, Kerry Sherman, Lee Moore, Kourtney Hall, Betsy Weiner

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Lymphedema frequently develops as a long-term effect from cancer and/or its treatment, including head and neck cancer (HNC). There is a substantial lack of understanding regarding the symptoms and experiences related to head and neck lymphedema. Objective: The objective of this study was to explore HNC patients' experiences of lymphedema, with emphasis on physical findings and associated symptom burden. Design: This was a qualitative, descriptive study. A purposive sample of 20 HNC patients who completed lymphedema therapy participated in semistructured, face-to-face interviews. Thematic content analysis was utilized to assess data. Results: Participants delineated the time when lymphedema onset presented and the sites of involvement. Most participants first noticed external or internal lymphedema/swelling within three months following either surgery or radiation therapy. Participants described a broad array of concurrent symptoms and functional deficits, including altered sensations, altered functions, neck-shoulder musculoskeletal/skin impairments, and psychosocial symptoms. Discussion: HNC patients experienced multiple physical and psychosocial symptoms during the time they experienced lymphedema. Conclusions: Clinicians need to inquire about tissue swelling and associated symptoms early in the post-treatment period to initiate lymphedema management strategies in a timely manner and facilitate reduction of long-term symptom burden and functional deficits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1267-1274
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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