March: Lymphedema Awareness Month


Lymphedema may develop when there is damage to the lymphatic system or disruption in lymphatic fluid.
Lymph fluid drains into the soft tissues, which causes swelling. This can happen anywhere in the body, but it’s most common in the arms and legs. Cancer surgeries, radiation treatments and other medical conditions increase the risk for lymphedema.

There are two types of lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema is genetic and very rare and affects about one in 6,000 of the general population, while secondary lymphedema accounts for approximately 80% of cases.

Lymphedema is most prevalent in breast cancer survivors.
About one in five women who have had the lymph nodes during breast cancer treatment will develop lymphedema. However, lymphedema may also be caused by treatment for other types of cancer, trauma, infection, obesity, kidney disease, or cardiac disease.

Lymphedema may not show up immediately.
Lymphedema is unpredictable, it may occur shortly after cancer interventions or months or even years later.

If left untreated, lymphedema can be a serious issue.
If swelling becomes unmanageable, it increases the risk of infections and other complications.

Lymphedema therapy is proven to be effective.
A certified lymphedema therapist will use techniques to encourage lymph flow that may include: manual lymph drainage (a gentle massage), compression garments and bandaging, personalized exercise program, and education on skin and nail hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.