Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage in or damage to the lymph system, often due to cancer treatment. This blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining, and as that fluid builds up, swelling occurs. Depending on where the damage is, one or both arms or legs may swell, causing pain and discomfort. Other parts of the body can be affected as well.
Theresa Hunter, PT, works to help patients manage lymphedema at UHS. “Our goal in physical therapy is to keep people as functional as possible after cancer treatment, and to reduce the impact of lymphedema through prevention,” says Ms. Hunter.
Ruth Manzer, RN, OCN, cancer nurse coordinator, is the interim facilitator of the lymphedema support group, which meets monthly at UHS Vestal. “Lymphedema is a lifetime thing,” Ms. Manzer says. “Patients have to devote one to two hours a day to managing their lymphedema. If they’re not committed to managing it, it can really interfere with their lives.”
The good news, according to Ms. Manzer, is that while managing lymphedema is a major commitment, it is doable. The monthly support group acts as a lifeline to both newly-diagnosed and long-term lymphedema patients, letting them share information on management techniques and new products.
The lymphedema support group meets the second Thursday of each month at UHS Vestal in the lobby of the Breast Center at 5:30 p.m. Light refreshments are served. Register by calling 763-5092 or on the calendar of events on the UHS website. Patients and family members are welcome, and no physician referral is necessary.