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Lymphedema description and treatment   


Sibylle Frey


Lymphedema is a chronic condition that can lead to complications if left untreated. When the lymphatic system is damaged or poorly developed, it can no longer transport lymph fluid normally. Lymph fluid then accumulates in the tissues, causing swelling, often in the arms and legs.

There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary.  

Primary lymphedema is the result of congenital malformations in the lymphatic system. It often appears following a triggering element (e.g.: pregnancy, small injuries, infection, etc.). Symptoms can be present from birth or later in life.  

Secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of a specific event that damaged the lymphatic system, or it may be the result of a health condition such as prolonged immobility or infection. Most commonly, lymphedema can occur as a result of injury, surgery or after cancer.

Cancer, cancer treatments (radiation) and the surgeries involved have the side effect of damaging lymph nodes or vessels. (For example, following removal of the breast and/or armpit nodes in the case of breast cancer, it is common for the arm to become swollen)

It should be noted that lymphedema may take some time to manifest itself, from a few months to a few years, after the events or surgery.  

The ideal treatment for secondary lymphedema is combined decongestive therapy. Its goal is to significantly reduce the swelling of the affected body part in order to restore its mobility and functionality. In addition, this treatment helps to stabilize the lymphedema condition and prevent many complications, as well as promote better overall health.  

Combined decongestive therapy involves an initial intensive sentence of several consecutive manual lymphatic drainage sessions (usually for one to two weeks, depending on the case) in combination with multilayered bandages that must then be kept on for a certain period of time.

These bandages exert compression on the affected limb to reduce the swelling as much as possible. Afterwards, it is essential to wear a compression garment* that will be prescribed by a doctor: this will prevent any complications, keep swelling to a minimum and ensure the success of the treatment in the longer term.

The therapy is finally completed by decongestive and respiratory exercises, skin care and healthy habits allowing self-management of lymphedema.  

*RAMQ reimburses a portion of the cost for compression garments and multi-layer bandages if you have been diagnosed with primary or secondary lymphedema by a physician. 


Important notes:  

- In the first phase at Altermed Clinic, I am offering treatment for secondary lymphedema of the arm, which often occurs following breast cancer, as of November 2022. I also offer preventive treatments (in the early stages of swelling, to help prevent progression to overt lymphedema) as well as occasional follow-ups, to ensure that the lymphedema condition remains stable and that the compression garment is still adequate.  

- Please note that treatments and duration vary from person to person and are based on an individualized plan, so an initial assessment meeting is necessary.  

- In all cases of lymphedema, please contact me by email or phone before making an appointment to ensure that I can offer you a treatment that meets your needs. 


I look forward to contributing to your well-being, 


Sibylle Frey  

ACTMD Member # 10668-L-12


For an evaluation meeting or for any questions, please feel free to contact me by email or by phone at the Plateau clinic at 514 287-3289