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All photos © Charlotte Ottaiano

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is considered a lifelong condition that needs to be properly evaluated by a lymphatic specialist. Early identification and treatment gives the patient the best chance to manage their symptoms and help restore and maintain quality of life.


Lymphedema can occur from scar tissue created following any post-operative procedure and is commonly seen in the breast cancer population following lymph node removal. This surgery causes a direct disruption to the lymphatic system. Further, radiation therapy can also damage an unknown number of lymph nodes, which complicated the lymph system’s ability to function properly.

How Can Lymphedema Be Treated?

Physical Therapy is the recommended treatment for Lymphedema. A trained lymphedema specialist conducts a full evaluation and develops a plan, which will probably include manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and other treatments, as needed.

What is Complete Decongestive Therapy?

A wide range of techniques may be deployed to manage post mastectomy, post-surgical or chronic lymphedema. Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the current standard of care for Lymphedema. CDT involves combining Manual Lymphatic Drainage, compression, exercises, skin care, and self-care management and training. In addition to MLD, therapists may employ kinesiotaping, compression garment fitting, and other hands-on modalities to stimulate the lymph system.

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