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Relief for Side Effect of Breast Cancer

Lymphedema Therapy Services Available at ATI Physical Therapy

When people think about breast cancer treatments, physical therapy probably isn’t their first thought. However, physical therapy can play an important role in recovery from a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

A potential side effect of breast cancer surgery is lymphedema, a painful swelling of the breast, chest, shoulder, arm or hand. ATI Physical Therapy provides lymphedema therapy to help manage this condition.

Lymphedema is caused by an accumulation of lymphatic fluid. It can interfere with wound healing and be the cause of infection/cellulitis. The fluid can cause the extremity to become hard/firm. As lymphedema progresses, the involved areas swell more and more. Mobility can be severely impaired, while joint movement is restricted and painful.

Until recently, the most common treatments available to lymphedema specialists were pressure gradient pumps, liposuction, resection, or complex micro surgery. Liposuction and pressure therapies have been shown to actually intensify the condition, making future attempts to treat the lymphedema much more difficult. Results of surgery for lymphedema have been minimal at best, with a high rate of morbidity.

According to Rita Ator, physical therapist at ATI’s Bolingbrook West location, lymphedema therapy is a medical necessity for many patients.

“When left stagnant, the condition will worsen, and complications can arise. Infection can cause patients to be hospitalized,” says Ator.

At ATI, many of the lymphedema trained therapists practice Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which includes:

  • Manual Lymph Drainage (a technique which is used to empty and decompress fluid-filled areas to allow limb to return to normal or near normal size)
  • Compression Therapy (using layers of low stretch bandages to prevent are from refilling with fluid)
  • Decongestive Exercises (activation of muscle and joins to increase lymph flow and minimize swelling)
  • Skin and Nail Care (to increase hygiene to eliminate bacterial and fungal growth in order to avoid infection)

The treatment not only manages the conditions, but teaches the patient self-care options as well.

ATI Physical Therapy provides lymphedema therapy in Bolingbrook, Chicago, Frankfort, New Lenox, Ottawa and Morris in Illinois, and Anderson, East Indy, North Indy, South Indy and Noblesville in Indiana. Specialty-trained physical therapists are available to complete a complimentary screening for those who think they may be a candidate for lymphedema therapy. Therapists can provide an assessment to the patient’s physician indicating the need for care.

“As professionals, it is our job to educate the medical community on the need and benefits of this care,” adds Ator.

For questions regarding the treatment of lymphedema, please contact Rita Ator at 630-771-0850.

ATI Physical Therapy offers morning, afternoon and evening hours. For a location near you, or more information on services, please visit www.ATIpt.com.