Lymphedema can be a possible side effect of cancer treatments including tumor removal, lymph node testing, and radiation. It is a condition where lymphatic vessels or pathways have been damaged, which can cause collection of lymph fluid in the tissues of the body. This can occur anywhere in the body – most commonly the arm or leg – but can happen anywhere (face, abdomen, and genitals). Lymphedema can also be associated with abnormal vessel development at birth (appearing in childhood or much later in life), cellulitis infections, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or traumatic injuries.
Regardless of the cause of lymphedema, the treatment plan will focus on 5 main areas: compression, manual lymphatic massage, skin care, self-management, and exercise. The CRMC physical therapy team is here to customize your treatment plan to help YOU best manage YOUR lymphedema. This may include:
• L-dex assessment for early detection of edema
• Manual lymphatic drainage
• Lymphedema compression bandaging or assessment for other compression devices
• Use & recommendation of pneumatic pumps (Flexi-touch is available for demonstration in the office)
• Expert exercise prescription for edema management, including aquatic exercises. This can also include recommendation to the cancer exercise class offered through the cancer center.
• Assistance in recommendation, fitting, and purchasing long-term compression items from local or national vendors based on patient needs and financial factors.
Risk Reduction Tips:
The following is a list of basic reduction tips – please discuss further with your therapist regarding your best plan:
• Proper hygiene & use unscented lotion
• Use sunscreen & insect repellent
• Avoid injury to the skin
If you develop a rash along with pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms – contact your physician immediately
• Gradually build up the duration & intensity of any activity or exercise
• Maintain an optimal weight; higher BMI has been shown to increase risk
• If possible, avoid having blood pressure or blood draws taken on your at-risk arm
• Wear looser clothing and jewelry, avoid carrying a heavy shoulder bag on your at-risk side
Compression garments (if recommended)
• Should be worn for strenuous, out of your normal, activity (prolonged standing, exercise)
• Should be considered for air travel
Your physician may recommend you attend an educational therapy session during your cancer treatment course. For more information about any of our lymphedema treatment options, please call CRMC Outpatient Rehab Services at (307-633-6175)
(clinic website link coming soon)