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Kim Barker, M.D. Answers Questions On Lymphedema

Kim Barker, M.D. Answers Questions On: Lymphedema

Are you able to help cancer patients avoid lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a type of swelling that occurs in arms and legs, which can be caused by damage to lymph nodes while undergoing cancer treatment.

There’s really no foolproof way to avoid it, but we can provide education ahead of time to help patients know the warning signs so we can treat it early and control it better if it does develop.

When should a patient see a physician or a therapist for lymphedema?

It’s best to see us right before or right after surgery. You can make an appointment with our lymphedema therapist, Beth Daniels.

What does the rehabilitation for lymphedema involve?

It’s a combination of things. Therapy with a trained lymphedema therapist shows patients how to do specialized types of massage to clear the lymph fluids from a swollen area.

Rehabilitation also often involves using certain types of compression garments, such as special wrappings or hose that will help prevent lymphedema from coming back or help keep the edema down. We encourage exercise and more movement.

We also make sure patients practice good skin care. We teach them how to inspect their skin and keep it well moisturized so they don’t get dry skin or cuts that can lead to infection.

Which cancer patients are most at risk for lymphedema?

We most often think of breast cancer patients and gynecologic cancer patients, but head and neck cancer patients also have a pretty high risk of developing lymphedema in their neck and their face. Some people are more prone to it because of genetics or the type of surgery they’ve had.