What is Lymph?
Lymph is a clear colorless fluid which originates in body tissue and
travels in the lymph vessel system carrying away tissue fluid as
well as metabolic waste. In passing from one region of the body to
another, cellular debris and microorganisms are filtered by lymph
nodes along its path.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the abnormal collection of lymph fluid which causes
swelling of an arm or a leg. It can reduce one's ability to function
as well as impair quality of life. Most cases stem from cancer or
its treatment. Surgery to remove cancer often removes regional lymph
nodes and radiation to the chest of groin/pelvic areas can disrupt
the body's ability to drain accumulated lymph from the distal limb.
Modern cancer treatments lead to lymphedema in 20% of patients.
How is Lymphedema Treated?
Early intervention is key, In Europe, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is
frequently performed prior to radiation or surgery to prevent the
complication of lymphedema. "Any doctor who tells you that nothing
can be done for lymphedema is wrong" reported Jane Brody of the New
York Times (April 7th 1998). Effective measures include manual
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, bandaging and specialized exercises.
What LDT Program does Meridian recommend for as part of Breast
We recommend Lymphatic Drainage to be applied for one or two
sessions prior to surgery and radiation. This process drains and
stimulates the lymphatic system before it is inhibited by the
ensuing trauma. (it is much more difficult to drain post-operatively
or post-radiation). The drainage will make it easier for your
surgeon to make incisions through clean tissue , particularly for
reconstructive surgery. After surgery, Lymphatic Drainage can be
used to prevent infection and may also alleviate pain and spasm. The
therapy has also been shown to improve the scarring process. Post-op
drainage can require several sessions which proceed as follows:
skincare are including cleansing,
lubrication and debriding.
gentle massage to redirect lymph and
edema to adjacent functioning lymphatic channels.
multi-layered compression wrapping
(bandages) may be used to treat or prevent any accumulation of
individual exercises and remedial
breathing to enhance lymph flow and preserve mobility may be
What about if I wanted learn more about Lymphedema?
The National Lymphedema Network in San Francisco has a hotline:
800-541-3259 and the National Cancer Institute can fax several pages
of info about lymphedema to you if you call 301-203-5847 (follow the
recorded message, used code #500442 when you request info). You may
also find relevant info in our
bibliography sections, or you may
Back to Top