Breast cancer survivor offers wisdom at Faulkner satellite center
Call 877-422-3324 today to make an appointment
Make your appointment or second opinion with Dana-Farber today to meet with an onsite specialist.
Can’t get to Boston? Explore our Online Second Opinion service to get expert advice from Dana-Farber oncologists.
Toll-Free Number866-408-DFCI (3324)
Discover the ways to give and how to get involved to support Dana-Farber.
Poet Richard Fox gains insight – and material – through cancer treatment
A family faces cancer in an unfamiliar city – with help
Choosing mastectomy or not: Studying young women's surgical choices
Jeff's targeted therapy has kept his advanced lung cancer at bay.
Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluids that produces an abnormal swelling in the body. This condition can appear in some people who have been through cancer treatment. When lymphatic drainage is blocked, protein-rich fluid gradually builds up and stagnates in the soft tissues where bacterial growth can develop, possibly leading to infection.
Some people with cancer have a higher risk of developing lymphedema than others. Those who are obese, advancing in age or who have complications after surgery are at a higher risk.
To prevent lymphedema, carefully observe changes in your body and learn how to plan the personal hygiene that your doctor recommends after surgery and/or radiation treatment. You should understand the risks of developing lymphedema and the importance of following a personal caution for the rest of your life. Lymphedema can occur as late as 15 years or more after surgery.
Exercise is important and can prevent lymphedema. Lymphatic fluid drainage can improve with physical exercise. Your doctor or physical therapist can design an exercise program for you and let you know after surgery when to begin exercising.
Lymphedema treatment depends on its cause. If it's from an infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
If lymphedema is not due to an infection, a compression system can be used on the arm or leg to reduce swelling. Mechanical compression sleeves or stockings can help. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) can be applied by a trained therapist. Speak to your nurse practitioner or physician about a referral. Resources are also listed on the next page.
If in spite of manual lymphatic drainage treatments the lymphedema persists, a special pump can be used at home.
Many insurance plans now cover diagnostic tests and treatment for lymphedema. Compression garments prescribed by the doctor generally are covered by the majority of insurance companies. It is advisable to inquire. Remember that treatment and support can improve the quality of life for a person affected by lymphedema.
There are clinics offering another form of treatment called Complete Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDP). You should ask your doctor to find out where this treatment is available.
Lymphedema can cause body image changes, be painful and limit activity. If you are feeling depressed, embarrassed or are avoiding social situations, you should talk with your doctor about individual counseling or a group that can offer emotional and informative support. Many resources are listed below.
National Lymphedema Network800-541-3259 http://lymphnet.org
Information Services of the National Cancer Institute800-4-CANCER Y-ME hotline: 800-221-2141www.y-me.org
Greater Boston Lymphedema Networkwww.gbln.org
Brigham & Women's Hospital617-732-5304
Circle of Hope Lymphedema Foundation203-758-6138www.lymphedemacircleofhope.org