The Importance of Lymphedema Therapy

Following breast cancer, your risk of developing lymphedema may increase based on risk factors such as radiation or lymph node removal. Being able to receive lymphedema therapy is key to your long-term health outcome.

Signs and symptoms of lymphedema include heaviness, tightness, or fullness of the affected area. You may notice that clothes or jewelry begin to feel tighter. Lymphedema tends to happen gradually over time and progresses slowly. Most often, lymphedema onset is within 3 years of initial breast cancer treatment.  If you experience any of these things, it is important to speak with your doctor and get referred to a certified lymphedema therapist.

At The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center, we not only offer therapy following lymphedema diagnosis but have a specialized program for early detection and prevention. Early detection improves therapeutic outcomes and often results in more successful treatment. Utilizing bioimpedance spectroscopy technology, we can detect early changes in fluid before standard circumferential measures notice the change. This allows for early intervention to prevent the progression of lymphedema.

With therapy, you can expect manual treatment as well as compression therapy to reduce swelling. Therapy focuses on reducing the swelling as much as possible before fitting patients with maintenance garments. For those at risk, we provide routine screenings to address swelling changes as early as possible.

For further information about lymphedema or the therapy programs offered, please visit The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center or Washington University Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 

Lymphedema Services Now Offered @ Milliken

The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center is now offering Lymphedema services for patients who are in need of these services. If you see patients or work in the community with those who may benefit from this service please don’t hesitate to call and schedule an appointment at (314) 286 – 1669.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema presents as a chronic swelling of the limb due to the accumulation of protein-rich fluid. This can be due either to a genetic condition or as a result of trauma or cancer. It may cause a significant increase in limb size, an increase in susceptibility to infection, and may also impact healing ability. As lymphedema progresses, changes in your skin composition may occur. Lymphedema can be managed with therapy, compression garments, and when appropriate- surgical intervention.

The goal

The goal of therapy is to achieve maximum swelling reduction. This is accomplished with a combination of bandaging, MLD, and a possible exercise plan. Bandages will need to be worn for 22-24 hours a day over the course of therapy. Your therapist will discuss specific guidelines with you.

Treatment:

What to expect on your first day of therapy:

Following your evaluation, the first day of treatment will consist of preparing bandaging supplies and Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). You will be asked to remove your clothing during treatment so massage is directly over your skin. Sheets will be used to ensure privacy. You are welcome to bring a family member or friend to therapy with you.

Your first set of bandages will be provided to you by your therapist. If a second set is required, it will be your responsibility to purchase these bandages.

Course of treatment

In general, therapy will begin with treatment sessions 4-5 days a week. This can vary based on diagnosis and presentation. After two weeks, your treatment will be reduced to 2-3 times a week as appropriate. When limb reduction is achieved, you will be measured for compression garments. These typically arrive 1-2 weeks after the order date. Your therapist will ensure proper fit upon arrival. These garments will be used long term.

We recommend a follow-up every 6 months.

Learn More about our Lymphedema Services at Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center.