SUGAR LAND — Through the collaboration between oncology services and rehabilitation therapy at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, cancer survivors experiencing lymphedema will soon have access to a beneficial treatment called complete decongestive therapy (CDT).
CDT is a comprehensive therapy that reduces the effects of lymphedema, the build-up of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling, discomfort and a loss of flexibility.
“We are excited about the benefits of this therapy and are thrilled to be able to offer it to our patients,” said Sean Croft, PT, MPT, director of rehabilitation services at Houston Methodist Sugar Land. “Because there are no medications currently available for lymphedema, CDT is a major step forward, in helping survivors in their post-cancer recovery.”
Lymphedema can occur when lymph nodes are removed during surgery or damaged from radiation therapy during cancer treatment. The flow of lymph fluid is disrupted, which leads to swelling in different parts of the body. Swelling can worsen over time and become severe, causing skin sores to develop. If left untreated, the area is susceptible to infection. However, early recognition and prompt intervention can alter the course of the condition. For this reason, Houston Methodist Sugar Land has incorporated bio-impedance devices that enable staff to measure subclinical changes in the extracellular fluid (ECF) and discover lymphedema up to 10 months earlier than current measurement techniques.
CDT uses a set of techniques administered and taught by credentialed therapists to reduce the symptoms of swelling. Certified lymphedema therapist Kimberly Kainer, OTR, CLT, is the lead therapist for the Lymphedema Management Program at Houston Methodist Sugar Land.
“This program will provide significant benefits to patients through the delivery of CDT ― a comprehensive set of techniques that may include manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandages and garments, and therapeutic exercises,” said Kainer. “I create an individualized treatment plan that focuses on each patient’s unique symptoms, and it really makes a difference in the quality of life for the patient. This is a chronic condition with no cure, but the ability to manage it with therapy is a relief for many patients.”
Kainer says that learning how to prevent infection in affected areas is an important part of treatment. Since swelling makes it easier for bacteria to grow, patients are encouraged to take extra precautions to keep those areas healthy.
“It’s important to remember to keep your skin clean and well-moisturized and to check it regularly for cuts, sores, bug bites or blisters,” she said. “Being extra careful while shaving, avoiding picking at or cutting your cuticles, and wearing shoes that fit well are actions that we all should adopt, but they are especially important for patients with lymphedema because even a small injury can lead to infection.”
Amy Sebastian-Deutsch, DNP, APRN, CNS, AOCNS, director of oncology services at Houston Methodist Sugar Land, said the addition of the Lymphedema Management Program is just one element in the hospital’s holistic approach to treating cancer ― an approach that begins with screening and diagnosis and continues across the care continuum.
“In some cases, lymphedema occurs shortly after surgery or radiation,” Sebastian-Deutsch explained. “But for some patients, it doesn’t develop until months or even years later, long after their cancer treatment is over. Incorporating the ability to detect subclinical lymphedema gives us the opportunity to implement treatment plans early, which is one way we are extending our care and support to enrich the lives of survivors.”
To learn more about lymphedema therapy or to schedule an appointment, call 281-274-7979.