Lymphedema Management

Lymphedema and Complete Decongestive Therapy

Before, during, or after treatment some patients may develop swelling in a limb or other part of the body as a result of the cancer and/or treatment of the cancer. This swelling might be, or potentially become lymphedema. Lymphedema is a long-lasting collection of lymph fluid making the limb or trunk feel heavy, swollen, or thick and may eventually result in tissue hardening, injury, or infection, if left untreated.

In the oncology setting, lymphedema most commonly occurs after a surgery involving the removal of lymph nodes, such as during a sentinel node biopsy, axillary or cervical, node excision. Or it may occur if a tumor is blocking the flow of lymphatic fluid to or from a lymph node region. Additionally, radiation therapy to lymph nodes or a region of lymph nodes can increase the risk of lymphedema development. Each of these persons is at risk for lymphedema referred to as secondary lymphedema. Other causes of secondary lymphedema may be chronic venous insufficiency, trauma, or heart disease.  Congenital lymphatic disruption or malformation are forms of primary lymphedema.

Lymphedema can occur post-operatively or even years after the treatment due to strain or injury to the limb, or even with normal, everyday use.

Lymphedema treatment is provided by Highlands Oncology therapists through a system of complete decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT involves education regarding skin care, exercise, manual lymphatic drainage, and compression bandaging (if indicated). Our therapists provide assessment, treatment, and fitting of compression wear.

Helpful Links:

Lymphedema Education and Research Network: https://lymphaticnetwork.org/

Breast Cancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/

Lymphedema Treatment Act: https://lymphedematreatmentact.org/

Lymph Care by Jobst: https://www.lymphcareusa.com/professional/therapy-solutions/complete-decongestive-therapy.html