Lymphedema, also called “LE,” is a side effect of cancer treatment. It currently affects about 1-
in-3 patients who’ve undergone surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, each of which may compromise
the lymphatic system.
Lymphedema is characterized by abnormal swelling that generally occurs in one of the arms or legs,
and sometimes both arms and both legs. Patients with lymphedema also have a greater risk of getting
infections. Cuts or small breaks in the skin can lead to serious complications and hospitalizations.
Currently, no cure for lymphedema exists. By the time patients experience swelling, the condition is
typically irreversible. However, new research indicates that prevention is possible, if lymphedema is
In the past, there was little doctors could do. Lymphedema was hard to catch early, and even when it was, there was no way to prevent it. Symptoms don’t usually appear for more than a year after treatment or surgery. By that time, most patients are back to seeing their family doctor and are referred out to physical therapists to manage symptoms. Because Lymphedema is incurable, many healthcare providers don’t realize it’s actually preventable.
New technologies, like Bioimpedance Spectroscopy (L-Dex®), combined with early intervention protocols, like compression sleeves, have been shown to bring the incidence of Lymphedema down to under 3% in breast cancer patients2,3.
Systems must be put in place to make Lymphedema education AND prevention accessible to all. If we implement protocols to catch it early, we can prevent Lymphedema before it becomes problematic and irreversible. Let’s beat this thing together.
1. https://lymphaticnetwork.org/treating-lymphedema. Accessed September 12, 2019.
2. Ridner SH, et al. A Randomized Trial Evaluating Bioimpedance Spectroscopy Versus Tape Measurement for the Prevention of Lymphedema Following Treatment for Breast Cancer: Interim Analysis. Ann Surg Oncol 2019; https://doi.org/10.1245/s10434-019-07344-5.
3. Whitworth PW and Cooper A. Reducing chronic breast cancer-related lymphedema utilizing a program of prospective surveillance with bioimpedance spectroscopy. Breast J. 2017;1-4.