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Media Room

Articles / 2016

Often Untreated, Lymphedema Affects Millions of Americans

Camarillo Acorn
by Claudia Steele-Major

Claudia Steele-Major is a physical therapist and certified lymphedema therapist—Lymphology Association of North America.

Ventura County Star
by Tom Kisken

Actress Kathy Bates, perhaps best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in the 1990 psychological thriller “Misery,” has taken on a new role as the spokesperson for the Lymphatic Education and Research Network.

After surviving ovarian and breast cancer, Bates struggled with lymphedema—a chronic condition that resulted from a double mastectomy four years ago.

Her goal is to raise awareness and help provide support and hope for about 10 million Americans affected by the condition, according to the LE&RN.

Lymphedema is an abnormal swelling in an arm or leg that may occur after surgeons have removed lymph nodes during cancer treatment. Without the lymph nodes, lymph fluid does not drain properly, which can lead to serious infections.

While it is not fatal, lymphedema can be disfiguring and debilitating and can cause longterm physical, psychological and social problems for patients.

Besides abnormal swelling, symptoms include: a feeling of heaviness or tightness in arms or legs, a restricted range of motion, aching or discomfort, recurring infections, and hardening or thickening of the skin (fibrosis).

Treatment of lymphedema is one of a number of services provided by Community Memorial Health System’s Cancer Resource Center in Ventura in cooperation with the Rehabilitation Department of Ventura County.

Complete decongestive therapy is provided, which includes manual lymph drainage, multilayered compression bandaging by certified fitters, therapeutic exercises, skin care, and patient education in self-care.

The CRC assists lymphedema patients with obtaining compression garments to reduce swelling. Patients with financial issues can apply to the CRC’s garment fund.

In addition to treatment, the CRC offers a screening clinic for lymphedema and a support group, both of which take place the third Tuesday of each month.

Lymphedema often is initially unrecognized by the medical community. Although there is currently no cure, the condition can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of the affected limb.

For more information on the CRC’s lymphedema treatment program, call (805) 652-5459.