Patients with major medical illnesses such as cancer may also be at risk for lymphedema, a swelling that typically occurs in the extremities. To ease lymphedema discomfort, Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH) offers advanced treatment from physical therapy experts who are specially trained as certified lymphedema specialists.
There are two types of Lymphedema: Primary and Secondary Lymphedema. Primary Lymphedema is rare and is caused by the absence of certain vessels at birth or abnormalities in the lymphatic system. Secondary Lymphedema is due to blockage or interruption of the lymphatic system, which can occur from cancer treatment. Many who deal with breast cancer develop Lymphedema due to the fact that at least two or three lymph nodes (sometimes more) are removed from under the arm for surgery. If the cancer spreads and radiation is needed, radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of lymph nodes or lymph vessels which will restrict the flow of lymph fluid.
Treatment Brings Immediate Relief
Lymphedema develops when fluids of the lymph system — the network that carries white blood cells throughout the body to fight infection — are blocked by treatments such as surgery or radiation. This causes a build-up of fluid in the lymph system, which then leads to uncomfortable or painful swelling and limited range of motion, usually in the arms, fingers, legs or toes.
Certified lymphedema specialists Anna Albrecht, DPT, Charmaine Boncalon, PT, Nerissa Lim, PT and Julie Rowe, DPT provide intensive lymphedema services for patients who struggle with swelling that ranges from moderate to severe. “After their first lymphedema treatment many patients feel relief right away,” says Boncalon. “Their affected area feels lighter and they can move easier, which means a lot when they are performing activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing.” Therapy requires a physician referral. Treatment focuses on lymphatic drainage, in which the lymphedema therapist manually redirects the buildup of fluid to help significantly reduce swelling. Therapy also includes compression bandaging of the affected area, skin care, exercises to promote lymphatic flow and an emphasis on patient education.
"Each patient is unique so their treatment is tailored to meet their specific needs," says Albrecht.
LCMH is one of the few medical centers in the area offering comprehensive lymphedema services.
WHO: Certified Lymphedema Therapist that treat both Primary and Secondary Lymphedema.
PROGRAM: Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)
- Manual Lymph Drainage
- Compression Bandaging
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Skin and nail care education
- Fitting for long term compression garments.
TREATMENT TIMELINE: Intensive Phase: Attaining as much decongestion as possible through CDT.
- 5 days per week for 2 weeks
- Plan for home phase with education and fitting for compression garments.
- Home Phase: 2-3 days per week for 2-4 weeks: Transitions patients into independent home management, including self-bandaging, self- MLD, and ability to donn/doff garments independently.
HOW TO REACH US: For more information or an appointment please call the hospital location at 708.229.5525 or the Outpatient Care Center location at 708.974.7625.