Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center maintains a robust lymphedema management program to help cancer patients manage and overcome this condition.

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a painful swelling that can occur when there is an interruption of normal lymphatic flow in the body.

The interruption can occur as a result from:

  • surgery
  • radiation
  • infection
  • trauma

What Causes Lymphedema?

With normal lymphatic flow, the amount of fluid traveling to the arm/ leg area is the same as the amount of fluid leaving the area. When lymphedema occurs, the amount of fluid traveling to the area is more than the amount leaving because of damage to the body's lymphatic “transport system.” Lymphatic fluid is rich with protein and that protein can act as a magnet for swelling. The protein serves as a food source for infection, therefore, making it difficult to treat.

How We Can Help

Following an evaluation by a certified lymphedema therapist, patients receive individualized therapy that may consist of:

  • Exercise – Stretching or other special exercises to help move the fluid.
  • Skin care – Proper skin care to keep the skin moist and less prone to cracks, cuts and blisters that increase risk of infection.
  • Massage – Manual lymph draining is a gentle form of massage that helps mobilize the fluid and direct it to other pathways in the body.
  • Bandaging – A technique using cotton, low-stretch bandages to apply pressure to the affected limb or other body part.
  • Compression garments – Elastic fabric garments similar to support stockings that apply pressure to the affected area to help move fluid to reduce swelling.

Let your physician know if you develop signs of lymphedema and request a referral to the cancer center’s lymphedema therapist.

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