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March Is Lymphedema Awareness Month

Published: March 12, 2019
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It is estimated that 3 million to 5 million Americans have lymphedema -- more people than have ALS, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease combined.

The Methodist Lymphedema Clinic is celebrating Lymphedema Awareness Month in March by educating fellow staff, physicians and caregivers about the disorder. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will sign a proclamation on March 12 declaring March as Lymphedema Awareness Month. Methodist will also host a lymphedema certification course in March, training area therapists, including three Methodist staff members.

Lymphedema is the accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues as a result of a malfunction in the body’s lymphatic system. Two major functions of the lymphatic system are draining excess fluid from tissues and assisting in the body’s immune response through a system of organs, lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Any disruption to this system from surgery (particularly to remove lymph nodes), radiation therapy, traumatic injury, congenital malformation or venous insufficiency can cause fluid to accumulate in the tissues and be noticed as swelling. It is generally a gradual progression and not typically acutely painful, but often is described as feelings of fullness, heaviness and aching. It can affect any area of the body and leads to an increased risk for infections, difficulty with mobility and fitting into clothes, and completing daily tasks.

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the gold standard for treatment for lymphedema and is available at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, in the physical therapy clinic on the second floor of Methodist Hospital's North Tower and at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs. Treatment is also provided to acute care patients at Methodist Hospital.

Therapy is completed by certified lymphedema therapists (physical and occupational therapists with additional specialized training) and may also include wound care and fitting of compression garments.

For additional information on lymphedema, please contact the MHS lymphedema team in Omaha at (402) 354-4670 or in Council Bluffs at (712) 396-6061.