Understanding Lymphedema and Cancer

Just in time for Lymphedema Awareness Month and World Lymphedema Day on March 6, this article covers the basics of this disorder and how it impacts cancer patients. We also touch on how WeSPARK can support cancer patients with Lymphedema.

What is it?

Lymphedema, a lymphatic system disorder, causes severe fluid buildup, swelling, inflammation, and pain. Up to 10 million people have Lymphedema and lymphatic diseases in the U.S., and millions more worldwide. While most anyone can develop Lymphedema for various genetic or health reasons, people undergoing cancer treatment are at a higher risk of developing it. Out of the 10 million – seven million of those may be cancer patients.

What’s the negative news?

Lymphedema increases the risk of getting an infection in the swollen area because the good cells that prevent infection can’t reach that swollen body. Cuts and wounds may heal more slowly. There’s also an emotional impact where individuals experiencing Lymphedema feel isolated, depressed, and embarrassed about it.

What’s the good news?

Lymphedema is preventable and treatable. It is treated through exercise, a compression sleeve or stocking, massage therapy, a pneumatic pump, or, in severe cases, surgery. It can be prevented in some cases by discussing with your doctor both pre and post-treatment about ways to minimize your risk.

WeSPARK offers support with various services, including our Nurse Navigator, who can help you prepare to talk to your doctor and offer resources. Individuals who experience Lymphedema may be able to get manual lymphatic drainage therapy at WeSPARK, which can help.

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