Complementary low-level laser therapy for breast cancer-related lymphedema: a pilot, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study

Lasers Med Sci. 2020 Feb;35(1):95-105. doi: 10.1007/s10103-019-02798-1. Epub 2019 May 11.


This pilot, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study is aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) as a complementary treatment to complete decongestive therapy (CDT) treating lymphedema among breast cancer patients for 12 months post-intervention. Study population was breast cancer patients who were diagnosed and referred to lymphedema clinic for CDT. Participants (n = 22) were randomized and assigned into either an active laser intervention group or an inactive laser placebo-control group. Active LLLT was administered to participants twice a week at the beginning of each CDT session. Outcome measures included lymphedema symptoms, symptom distress, and limb volume by an infrared perometer. Participants in the active and placebo laser groups were comparable in demographic and clinical predictors of lymphedema. In comparison with the placebo group (83.3%), significantly fewer participants in the active laser group (55.6%) reported more than one lymphedema symptom (p = 0.012) at 12 months post-intervention. Significantly, more patients in the active laser group (44.4%) reported less than two impaired limb mobility symptoms in comparison with the placebo group (33.3%) at 12 months post-intervention (p = 0.017). The active laser group had statistically significant improvements in symptom distress of sadness (p = 0.005) from 73 to 11% and self-perception (p = 0.030) from 36 to 0% over time from baseline to 12-months post-intervention. There was no significant reduction in limb volume. Findings of the trial demonstrated significant benefits of complementary LLLT for relieving symptoms and improvement of emotional distress in breast cancer patients with lymphedema.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Low-level laser; Lymphedema; Quality of life; Symptoms.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Lymphedema / etiology*
  • Lymphedema / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Placebos
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos