Understanding Lymphedema: For Cancers Other Than Breast Cancer

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For people who have lymphedema

If you develop lymphedema, your doctor can prescribe treatments to reduce the swelling, keep it from getting worse, and decrease the risk of infection.

Mild lymphedema should be treated by a physical therapist or other health care professional who has had training in managing lymphedema.

Moderate or severe lymphedema is most often treated by a lymphedema therapist with special training and expertise who will help you with skin care, massage, special bandaging, exercises, and fitting for a compression garment. This is sometimes known as complex decongestive therapy, or CDT. Manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, is the type of massage used as part of CDT to manage lymphedema. The therapist will also teach you things like how to care for the lymphedema at home and how and when to wear the compression garment.

Most insurance companies pay for lymphedema treatment, but some do not cover the cost of compression garments and dressings. Check with your insurance company about coverage for these therapies.

Getting treatment early should lead to a shorter course of treatment to get your lymphedema under control. Again, it’s important to notice changes right away and get help as soon as possible.

Last Medical Review: 04/05/2013
Last Revised: 04/05/2013