Lymphedema Therapist: How Can One Help You
If you have been diagnosed with lymphedema, you know it must be carefully managed. Proper treatment will require careful compliance with doctor’s orders on your part. With some diligence and help from a lymphedema therapist, you may be able to thwart the progression of this disease and minimize its impact on your daily life.
What is a Lymphedema Therapist?
If you’ve been under the care of an oncologist, surgeon, or general practitioner, you may be unfamiliar with the role of the lymphedema therapist. Generally speaking, a lymphedema therapist can be any health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of lymphedema.
He or she may be a nurse practitioner, doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc. These practitioners specialize in lymphedema therapy, and are adept at manual decongestive therapy; the form of specialized massage used to stimulate lymph drainage in affected areas of the body and applying compression wraps. Although they may wear other hats, lymphedema therapists typically have a great deal of experience working directly with patients who have been diagnosed with lymphedema.
There is no single set of criteria that define and certify a “certified lymphedema specialist”. The National Lymphedema Network (NLN) and the Lymphology Association of North American (LANA) are two organizations that have recommended minimum standards for competency, including 128-135 hours of training in decongestive therapy and hands-on experience with lymphedema patients. Study typically entails extensive knowledge of subjects such as skincare (an important concern among lymphedema patients) and exercises to help lessen symptoms.
LANA also recommends courses in relevant lymphatic network-focused anatomy and physiology, as well as hands-on instruction. There is a voluntary exam that aspiring a lymphedema therapist may take upon completion of this course work. The exam is the Clinical Lymphedema Therapist-LANA (CLT-LANA). Upon successful completion of the exam, a healthcare provider may proclaim their CLT-LANA certification.
Here are a few questions you may wish to pose to your lymphedema therapist:
- What is your medical specialty? DO, DC, LPN, BSN, MD, PhD, occupational therapist, massage therapist, or another rehabilitation therapist?
- What kind of training have you received specific to lymphedema?
- Have you learned how to conduct manual decongestive therapy (manual lymphatic drainage)?
- Have you completed training focused on bandaging and compression?
- Where did your training occur? Who provided this training?
- What percentage of your professional time is devoted to treating patients with post-breast-cancer-related lymphedema?
- Does your expertise extend to fitting patients for compression wear?
- What forms of insurance do you accept?
- Would it be possible for me to chat with one or two of your patients?
It may be worth the effort to out a lymphedema specialist in your area. These professionals have made lymphedema and its management a special focus for their medical/healthcare careers, and they are the professionals most likely to be able to provide you the specialized care you require to manage your symptoms optimally.