Lymphedema and Cancer Rehab
Learning about lymphedema and cancer rehab is the first step you need to prevent it from getting worse. We have certified cancer therapists available to help teach you how to manage your lymphedema. Lymphedema is a chronic health condition that some people are born with or may develop later in life after treatment for some cancers. Lymphedema most often develops in one arm or leg, but may be present in both arms and both legs. It may also occur in the hands or feet, even in the chest, back, neck, face, abdomen, and genitals.
What is the treatment for lymphedema?
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) can help reduce swelling, reduce the risk of making the lymphedema worse, and reduce the risk of other health problems. Most importantly, CDT can help improve your movement, function and quality of life. The treatment consists of two phases and four components:
Two Phases of CDT:
- Phase 1: Edema reduction
- Phase 2: Maintenance
- Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD): Manual lymph drainage can move lymph fluid from the swollen region into parts of the lymphatic system that are still functioning, from where the lymph can then be transported away. MLD is performed once daily in Phase 1. In Phase 2, this can then be reduced to a frequency of once to three times a week.
- Compression therapy: the use of graduated compression garments or bandages can greatly enhance MLD. In Phase 1 (edema reduction), compression bandages, together with padding materials are used. The advantage of a compression bandage is that it can be continuously adjusted as the swelling decreases. In Phase 2 (maintaining and improving the result), medical compression garments are generally used (e.g., sleeves, gauntlets, or tights) to help maintain the result achieved in reducing the edema.
- Meticulous Skin Care: Regular protective skin care in lymphedema is essential as the skin is vulnerable to inflammations and infections. It is important to keep the skin as intact as possible to help prevent bacteria from penetrating through the skin.
- Therapeutic Exercises: Exercise therapy allows the compression to exert its affect to the fullest and helps drain fluid from the tissue. Your therapist will design a program of exercises especially for you. Perform your exercises as diligently as possible and only continue as long as you feel no pain.
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