How a Two-Phase Approach Treats Lymphedema

March 6th, 2020

Grand View Health recognizes world #LymphedemaAwarenessDay, designed to shed light on this mysterious but common condition.

An estimated 10 million Americans live with lymphedema, a collection of excess fluid in the body. It affects 15% of all cancer survivors worldwide and 30% of all people treated for breast cancer, according to the Lymphatic Education & Research Network.

And while lymphedema is a chronic condition, it can be managed. Grand View Health offers people in Bucks, Montgomery and surrounding counties a Lymphedema Program led by certified lymphedema therapists. Marie Green, an occupational therapist, leads the program at the Sellersville Outpatient Center, while Judy Phipps, a physical therapist, leads the program at the Harleysville Outpatient Center.

A Two-Phase Approach to Lymphedema Management

“Our lymphedema therapists use a two-phase approach to help people manage lymphedema,” says Kim Pultorak, Manager of Physical Therapy at Grand View Health. “The goal is to reduce your swelling, identify potential complications and teach you self-management.”

During Phase One, therapists help reduce fluid in the affected area using a proven technique called Manual Lymph Drainage/Complete Decongestive Therapy. Phase One also may include skin and nail care, compression bandaging a home exercise program. “Our team will teach you how to manage your lymphedema on your own or with the help of friends or family,” Pultorak says. Phase One typically lasts three to six weeks, with appointments three to five times per week depending on your condition. You also may be fitted for a compression garment to help reduce swelling.

During Phase Two, you’ll wear the compression garment during the day, compression bandaging at night, and continue your home exercise program. You’ll also perform self-massage and maintain skin and nail care.

Preventing Lymphedema Following Breast Cancer Treatment

For people who have breast cancer treatment, Grand View offers a Lymphedema Prevention Program. It includes receiving baseline measurements and precaution instructions prior to breast cancer surgery. It also includes regular measurements of the arm (where fluid most often builds up after breast cancer treatment) and instructions on how to reduce your risk for lymphedema. “We then follow up with patients post-operatively at three, six, nine, 12 and 18 months after treatment,” Pultorak says.

Learn more about lymphedema care at Grand View Health.