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Lymphedema Treatment, Therapy & Prevention

Cancer-Related Lymphedema is Not Curable but it is Preventable

Symptoms for cancer-related lymphedema usually appear within the first 3 years after cancer treatment1. To avoid chronic, lifelong lymphedema, cancer patients must begin testing early – before the condition becomes irreversible.   

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Proud partner of the LIVE Today Foundation, whose mission is to provide free compression garments to under-resourced cancer survivors living with lymphedema.

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50% of patients who develop lymphedema do so within 1 year after surgery2

What is Lymphedema?

Cancer-related lymphedema, also known as secondary lymphedema, is a condition that can result from surgical, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments for some cancers, including:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Genital Cancers
  • Urinary Cancers

These treatments can damage or block the lymphatic system, which is a large network of vessels that remove waste from the body. When the lymphatics system is damaged, fluid build-up occurs, causing painful swelling, most often in the arms or legs.

Common Lymphedema Symptoms

Swelling in an arm or leg on the same side as the cancer treatment is a universal symptom of lymphedema. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in your arm, hands, fingers, legs or feet
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Your arm, hand, leg, or foot is hard to move
  • Clothes, rings, watches, or shoes feel tight

These symptoms may happen within a few days of surgery or treatment, but can also happen months or even years afterward.

The Stages of Lymphedema Progression

Stage 0:
Subclinical Lymphedema

The lymphatic system is blocked or damaged from cancer therapy. The lymph nodes in the arm, leg or other affected area are blocked, setting the stage for fluid build-up and lymphostasis.

Stage 1:
Pitting Edema

Fluid build-up causes swelling and some pitting may appear on the skin. Beyond this stage, lymphedema progression becomes irreversible.

Stage 2:
Irreversible Lymphedema

The affected limb becomes hard and increases in size. Compression garments may help manage lymphedema progression, but the condition becomes irreversible at this stage.

Stage 3:

The affected limb becomes very large and misshapen. The skin may become leathery or scaly and suffer from breakages as well as infections.

Lymphedema Treatment & Prevention after Cancer

Periodic fluid measurement and monitoring, combined with early intervention protocols like compression garments, have been shown to bring the incidence of lymphedema down to under 3% in breast cancer patients.1,2

L-Dex Score for Lymphedema Prevention

The L-Dex score helps lymphedema specialists know if patients are developing lymphedema before signs or symptoms appear. The ability to test and monitor fluid levels allows patients to take steps to stop lymphedema from getting worse, or to avoid getting the condition at all.

Lymphedema Prevention Protocol

For best results, at-risk patients receive a baseline measurement before cancer treatment begins and are then tested regularly after treatment. When a patient’s L-Dex® score increases above normal levels, healthcare providers will evaluate for early signs of lymphedema and intervene with natural, at-home treatment (including compression therapy). Even without a baseline, lymphedema specialists can use the L-Dex® test to detect lymphedema early.

Lymphedema Prevention is as Easy as Test, Trigger, Treat™

An effective Lymphedema Prevention Program follows three steps to find early signs of lymphedema and to stop it from getting worse.


Test Upon Diagnosis & Periodically after Cancer Surgery

It is important for cancer patients to establish a baseline L-Dex® score once diagnosed with breast cancer, melanoma, or pelvic area cancers. After cancer surgery, patients should be tested every 3 months for the first 3 years, every 6 months for years 4 and 5, and annually thereafter2.


Evaluate Elevated L-Dex Readings above the Baseline

Clinical evidence shows that patients with an L-Dex® score of 6.5 or more from the baseline after surgery should seek immediate intervention3.


Apply Treatment to Reduce Lymphedema Progression

Compression garments worn at home for 4 weeks, 12 hours per day, has shown to reduce the progression of lymphedema by 95% in breast cancer patients3.

Patients Have a Voice in Preventing Lymphedema

Find a Lymphedema Specialist, Treatment Center or Physician Offering L-Dex® and inquire about their Lymphedema Prevention Program.


  1. Herd-Smith, A., et al., Prognostic factors for lymphedema after primary treatment of breast carcinoma. Cancer, 2001. 92(7): p. 1783-7
  2. Shah C, et al. Bioimpedance Spectroscopy for Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema Assessment: Clinical Practice Guidelines. The Breast Journal 2016;DOI: 10.1111/tbj.12647.
  3. Ridner SH, et al. A Randomized Trial Evaluating Bioimpedance Spectroscopy Versus Tape Measurement for the Prevention of Lymphedema Following Treatment for Breast Cancer: Interim Analysis. Ann Surg Oncol 2019;

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