In the early stages of lymphedema, when the swelling is mild, it can often be managed by compression garments, exercise, and elevation of the affected limb to encourage lymph flow. For more severe swelling, a treatment called “complete decongestive therapy” is used. The initial step often includes manual lymphatic drainage, which feels like a light form of massage and helps improve the flow of lymph from your arm or leg. This is followed by compression bandaging that helps to reduce the swelling. The size of your limb will be carefully monitored throughout your treatment sessions.
Unfortunately, lymphedema can occur in a variety of areas in the body, that have been treated for cancer with radiation and/or surgery affecting the lymph nodes. These areas include:
- Head and neck
- Groin or pelvic region
Once the effected area has decreased to the desired size, we will work with you to develop a home-based routine to manage your lymphedema. This will include developing a safe and sensible exercise program that will increase your physical fitness without unnecessarily straining your affected arm or leg, updating your compression garments to ensure proper fitting, working with you to find the type of garment that best meets your need, and educating you about proper diet to decrease fluid buildup in your tissues and skin care to reduce the risk of infection.