Cancer and Lymphedema Care

Cancer and Lymphedema Care



Treatment for lymphedema aims to reduce swelling and helps to prevent the fluid from building up again. Some patients see immediate results, but others can expect notable reduction of swelling within weeks.


Lymphedema may not be experienced immediately. It can appear months to years after surgery or treatment; therefore, it is important to have the treatment as soon as possible after surgery, to ensure the lymphatic system is working properly. There is no cure for lymphedema, but Combined Decongestive Therapy, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and Compression Garments are very effective treatments.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid - usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. This means it can occur on its own (primary lymphedema) or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema).Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. It occurs most frequently in women. Usually shows up at pubertySecondary lymphedema is caused when lymph nodes and vessels are damaged or removed. Therefore the normal drainage sites are not working. Lymph fluid will then collect in an area causing swelling.Some examples are:Traumatic injuryPregnancyInfectionChronic venous insufficiency (common in obesity and diabetics)After or during cancer treatment (most commonly from lymph node removal)Surgery

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a verry specialized type of massage. MLD is an important part of the treatment of Lymphedema. To be effective in treating Lymphedema, it is important to use the correct technique. The aim of MLD is to move the excess fluid away from the swollen area(s), so that it can drain properly. MLD also maintains and improves drainage in the healthy lymphatic system.

What is Lipidema?

Lipedema is a chronic disease exclusively to women. It is abnormal fatty tissue usually occurring in the legs. Legs will have a column-like appearance, but the feet stay the same size and no amount of weight loss changes the appearance. Lymphedema is a side-effect of lipedema due to pressure on the lymph vessels from the excess weight.

When should someone seek MLD treatment?

  • Pre or post-surgery
  • Traumatic injury
  • Pregnancy
  • Infection
  • Chronic circulatory insufficiency (common in obesity and diabetes)
  • Cancer treatment
  • Lymph node removal
  • Sinusitis
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Heredity of lymphedema
  • Long distance travel
  • Infectious diseases
  • Hormone therapy

Skin Care for Lymphedema

Since the skin is stretched due to swelling, healing will be compromised. Therefore, taking care of your skin is imperative and it’s recommended to wash and moisturize every day. The soap and lotion used should be mild, fragrance and additive-free. Anti-bacterial cream should be used right away on any cuts, scrapes and bug bites. It’s recommended to carry cream in your car or purse. If the infected area becomes irritated, you must see a doctor right away. Otherwise, cellulitis, which is the inflammation of cells caused by a strep or staph infection, can also occur and may require hospitalization.

Compression Garments

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that requires management. If left untreated, it may become painful and difficult to move the affected limb, and fibrosis, cellulitis and sores may develop. Unfortunately, there are no drugs or surgeries that can relieve lymphedema.

To help control swelling, specialized and customizable Compression Garments are recommended. We sell both circular and flat knit compression garments from Juzo®, Valco and Athletics 8™. Our certified fitters will assess and provide you with the best garment to fit your needs.In some cases, people may qualify for government assistance, but in order to qualify, you must be fitted by a Government Approved Assistive Device Program Vendor, like Head to Foot Oasis.

Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT)


Combined decongestive therapy is a highly successful process to reduce moderate to severe swelling, and includes the following:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage applied up to 5 times per week
  • Bandaging or custom sleeves and Compression Garments to be worn day and night
  • Skincare to prevent and/or treat infections
  • Exercise Plan to promote drainage

This process can take 2 weeks or longer, depending on how large the limb is and how committed the patient is to doing self-care at home. Support from a friend or family member who can help you go through this therapy is recommended.

* Lymphedema treatments are covered by most extended health benefit plans. See your plan administrator for details.