Experience the Blessing Difference: Lymphedema Care:

With our certified lymphedema therapist, Blessing provides expert care to prevent and manage the condition. Our lymphedema specialist has certification from the Lymphology Association of North America.

This certification means that our therapist has achieved the highest level of national standards in managing lymphedema symptoms and keeps up with all advancements in the field. Our certified lymphedema specialist is part of our team of rehabilitation providers. Read more about our rehabilitation services.

What You Need to Know About Lymphedema

Lymphedema is swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluids, which can result from damage to your lymph system. Lymphedema develops when the lymph system cannot properly drain fluids from your body. Here’s how your lymph system works and how lymphedema affects it:

  • Your lymph system: This network of tubes with lymph nodes (small glands) drains lymph and other fluids from your body. Lymph nodes store white blood cells to fight infection and filter impurities from the body. During cancer treatment, lymph nodes may be damaged or removed, which can prevent lymph fluid from draining properly.

  • Stages of Lymphedema: The fluid buildup causes pain, swelling and other symptoms that can range from mild to severe, depending on the stage. Talk with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

    • Stage 0: Subclinical. Lymphatic system is blocked, setting the stage for fluid build-up.

    • Stage 1: Pitting Edema. Fluid build-up causes swelling; some pitting may appear on the skin.

    • Stage 2: Irreversible. The affected limb becomes hard and increases in size.

    • Stage 3: Elephantiasis. The affected limb becomes very large and misshapen and the skin looks like leather.

Lymphedema and Cancer Treatment

Depending on your treatment plan, you may have surgery or radiation therapy. If the cancer has spread from a tumor to nearby lymph nodes, your doctors may remove or treat the nodes with radiation to help stop the spread of cancer.

Treatment that removes or affects lymph nodes can increase your risk of developing lymphedema:

  • Breast cancer treatment can affect lymph nodes under the arm, which can lead to lymphedema in the arm.

  • Ovarian, uterine, or prostate cancer treatment can affect lymph nodes in the groin area, which can lead to lymphedema in a leg.

Preventing Lymphedema

If you have cancer treatment that affects lymph nodes, take these steps to help prevent lymphedema from developing or progressing:

  • Tell your doctor immediately: If you experience any symptoms of lymphedema as described above, talk to your care team. We can provide treatments to minimize symptoms and possibly reverse the condition.

  • Don’t block the flow of fluids: If you have mild symptoms, avoid doing anything that may restrict lymph flow in the arm or leg. We recommend that you avoid:

    • Carrying a handbag or heavy bag on that arm

    • Wearing tight or constricting clothing, stockings or jewelry

    • Sitting with your legs crossed

  • Prevent infection: Clean and sanitize cuts and insect bites immediately. Bacteria that cause infections can multiply quickly when lymph fluid builds up in a limb.

Lymphedema Treatment

We offer treatment options to help you manage lymphedema and prevent it from worsening, including:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help fluids move properly through your body. Talk to our certified lymphedema therapist about exercises that are right for you.

  • Compression sleeves or bandages: If you have lymphedema, a specially fitted compression sleeve or correctly wrapped bandages may help prevent fluid buildup. Talk to your care team to be fitted for a compression garment to help you.

  • Weight loss: Being obese or overweight can worsen lymphedema symptoms. Our registered and licensed dietitians can help you lose weight. Read more about our outpatient nutrition services.

  • Limb elevation: Keeping your arm or leg raised above your heart can help fluid and lymph drainage.


For more information about our cancer center services call (217) 223-1200.