March is Lymphedema Awareness Month

To the editor:

March is Lymphedema Awareness Month, during which the patient and advocacy communities, join forces to increase awareness of this chronic health condition.

Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked. Lymphedema occurs when lymph is not able to flow through the body the way that it should. It can happen at any age.

Up to 10 million Americans, 100 million worldwide suffer from lymphedema, making it more than several other diseases combined. In the U.S, primary lymphedema affects 1 in 100,000 people. Secondary lymphedema affects around 1 in 1,000 Americans. It’s most common in women who have been treated for breast cancer.

Due to a lack of awareness, information and education, even in our medical communities, lymphedema is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Delays in diagnosis and subsequent treatment can result in unnecessary progression of the disease. Untreated, it can result in complications including infections, pain, and disability. Although lymphedema cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively with tools such as compression garments and often a pump to help reduce swelling.

Unfortunately as critical as custom compression garments are to people who have lymphedema, they require replacement every six months and are not covered by Medicare. The Lymphedema Treatment Act, which now has legislative support in all fifty states, seeks to change this. To find out more about the Lymphedema Treatment Act go to

Sharon Dodds