The Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a multidisciplinary program for the diagnosis and treatment of lymphedema, a condition characterized by the swelling of soft tissue caused by the build up of lymphatic fluid. Early diagnosis and treatment help prevent lymphedema from becoming severe.
Lymphedema is the collection of protein-rich fluid in one location that causes swelling of the extremities, face or abdomen. Lymphedema most commonly occurs after a patient has breast cancer surgery but also can occur after radiation, chemotherapy, pelvic surgery and lymph node dissection.
What are the symptoms for the affected area?
Loss of function
Pink or red skin
Loss of mobility
Feeling extremely swollen
Feeling of heaviness
Physical and occupational therapists use a specialized massage technique, known as complete decongestive therapy (CDT), to promote the flow of fluid and reduce the swelling in the area being treated.
CDT also involves compression bandaging, which prevents the re-accumulation of fluid following massage by applying continuous pressure. There are many forms of compression bandaging, including elasticized sleeves that are measured to fit the affected extremity. Our therapists also will show you how you can apply compression bandages at home.
Finally, therapeutic exercise also helps reduce swelling by increasing the ability of muscle capability to circulate fluid.
Patients begin with one-hour CDT sessions five days a week, for one to two weeks. Sessions then decrease as appropriate over a period of three months.
To prevent lymphedema or the worsening of its symptoms:
Keep the affected area free of burns, rashes, insect bites, scratches or other abrasions.
Never use the affected area for blood pressure tests or injections, including acupuncture.
Avoid heavy lifting, tight clothing and jewelry.
Inspect the affected area daily.
Apply compression during air travel.
Patients may be referred to the Lymphedema Program by any clinician, including primary care physicians, oncologists and surgeons. For more information, please feel free to call Carrie Marcil at 401-793-4081 or email her at email@example.com.