Listen to physical therapist, Karen Gilbert explain what lymphedema is and how the oncology rehabilitation team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America mitigate this condition. This condition affects many breast cancer patients.
Karen Gilbert: Lymphadema is an overload of lymphatic fluid in a body that causes swelling somewhere, and it can be caused by either overproduction of fluid or an interruption of the system that collects it. So, it’s basically a plumbing problem, and what I’m generally doing is looking for a way to open up the main drain which happens to be on the left side of the neck for the lymphatic system and also to stimulate the collectors to collect the fluid. It’s important here because many of the treatments here cause either interruption of the system or they produce more fluid and that becomes uncomfortable and causes a dysfunction, but it’s also very dangerous. The lymphatic system moves your protein through your system and if protein lies among the cells in your tissue it is a petri dish for bacteria to grow and it could be very very dangerous. So, we look at number one preventing it and it isn’t just breast cancer patients as most would think, but it is also patients that have had growing dissections or multiple surgeries sometimes just radiation or a treatment will cause lymphadema in an area, and then it’s the therapists responsibility to really differentiate between, “Is it the vascular system, or is it the lymphatic system?” And those systems work together so we try to stimulate the system to actually work.