March is Lymphedema Awareness Month

by Shanna Ferguson, LOTR, CLT

Lymphedema is chronic swelling caused by a build-up of lymphatic fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is flawed (primary lymphedema) or damaged (secondary lymphedema).  It is estimated that between 3-5 million Americans suffer from lymphedema-which is more than ALS, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and Parkinson ’s disease combined. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that 2 out of 5 breast cancer patients will develop lymphedema within five years of surgery. This swelling increases the risk of infection, loss of strength and functional movement, and negatively affects self-esteem, body-image, and quality of life, notes Shanna Ferguson, certified lymphedema therapist at West Jefferson Medical Center’s Rehab Connection.  While lymphedema is a non-curable condition, it is manageable with components of Complete Decongestive Therapy.

Rehab Connection offers two lymphedema outpatient rehabilitation programs supporting patients in achieving maximal functional potential for recovery, reduction or stabilization of fluid, and independence with self-management of symptoms. The Lymphedema Management and Education Program was established in 2004 and the breast cancer specific lymphedema program, Recovery in Motion Program, in 2008. Community grant funding from the Susan Komen foundation is available to WJMC for qualifying breast cancer survivors for financial aid in purchasing the lymphedema compression materials. Rehab Connection also offers a quarterly Lymphedema Support Group which is free and open to the public. Please call 504-349-6259 for more information or to speak with a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.