Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 13

as fluid accumulation can be off-putting
to partners; and even simple acts like
choosing clothing, which doesn't fit
properly because of disfiguration from
the condition. Infection is a constant
cause of concern, because the decreased
flow of lymphatic fluid also compromises
the immune system.
The condition prevents people from
working and socializing and keeps
them in constant pain, Repicci says.

Common BUT
UNKNOWN

Lymphedema sufferers number
between 5 million and 10 million in
the United States, Rockson says.
The condition affects more people
than multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's
disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
or ALS), AIDS and Parkinson's disease
combined, but it is largely unknown
among the public, Repicci says.
"How could we have a disease that
affects up to 10 million people in this
country and yet has such a wall of
silence around it?" he asks. "Even people who have it are unaware of the disease they have," because receiving an
accurate diagnosis can be challenging.
Rockson says the disease is overlooked for several reasons. First,
the condition is generally not lifethreatening, and it often appears in
the context of a life-threatening disease such as cancer.
"It can have a tendency to be underrecognized because, in the mind of the
clinician, it becomes more background
noise," he says.
He cited the reluctance of doctors and cancer surgeons to recognize lymphedema as a complication
of cancer treatment because it seems
like an implicit criticism of the treatment itself.
Finally, and importantly, the
condition "historically hasn't had
what I call 21st-century treatments,"
Rockson says. Available treatments
are effective, but they are not as

simple as going to the pharmacy and
picking up a prescription.

Recovery and
PREVENTION

Most of the available treatments are
physical ones, such as massage to move
fluid from the tissues, compression
techniques to further mobilize the fluid,
and laser-based therapies.
"All are designed to physically stimulate the lymphatic system to be more
active," Rockson says.
People who have been treated for cancer can be monitored and tested during
the first year after treatment to detect
early signs of lymphedema and possibly
prevent the condition. If compression
therapy is used at the optimal time, the
condition can be prevented or reversed.

Telling THE WORLD

Sometimes doctors are unable to diagnose lymphedema because they receive
little training related to the condition
during medical school, Repicci says.
LE&RN is pressing for physician certification programs and training related
to lymphedema.
Bates wants to help LE&RN raise
money for research. In an interview with
the organization, she said her dream was
to go to Congress "and have a chamber
full of people who are suffering from
lymphedema stand up in front of that
committee and say, 'We have lymphedema. We are suffering. Please help us.'"
When that happens, Bates said,
"I want to be there with them to add
my name." ■

LIFE AS A
CANCER
SURVIVOR
Like many others, Kathy Bates beat
cancer but now faces the unwanted
consequences of treatment. Cancer
patients and survivors often face
lingering pain, numbness, fatigue and
limb swelling (lymphedema) as a
result of surgery and other lifesaving
treatments. Fortunately, there is help.
"We have a lot to offer these
patients," says Regan Royer, MD, a
physical medicine and rehabilitation
specialist who recently joined the
team of healthcare providers at UVA
Cancer Center. "The nice thing about
being in the Cancer Center," Royer
adds, "is someone can see me on
the same day they come to see their
oncology provider."
It's important to get an assessment
to pinpoint the cause of any physical
dysfunction, such as frozen shoulder
or lymphedema, so the best treatment can be prescribed. This may
include an in-office procedure or a
referral to outpatient therapy at UVAHealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital.
"We educate and encourage all of
our patients to take advantage of the
benefits of exercise to help mitigate
the unwanted side effects of cancer
treatment," says Sara Yoder, a physical therapist at UVA Cancer Center.
Before exercising, though, it's
important to seek professional help.
Exercise, for example, can worsen
lymphedema swelling unless the
affected limb is wrapped properly.
The earlier lymphedema or any
physical dysfunction is treated, Yoder
adds, the more manageable it is.

WEBSITE

Cancer Care Just for You
Find resources to help you thrive during and after cancer treatment.
Learn more at uvahealth.com/cancer.

FALL 2017

13


http://www.uvahealth.com/cancer

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Contents
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Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover3
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