Recently on the blog, we talked about 5 little known facts about head and neck cancer. As a follow-up to that article, here we are going to discuss 5 things you should know about head and neck cancer lymphedema.
- Lymphedema, a protein rich swelling of the face and / or neck, may occur in more than 50% of patients after surgery and / or radiation which are standard and effective treatments for head and neck cancer.
- CDT, or Complete Decongestive Therapy, is the standard of care for head and neck lymphedema. This treatment is performed by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and includes manual lymphatic drainage (swelling massage), skin care, the use of compression, and specific exercises designed to help reduce swelling.
- Stretching of the muscles in the neck and shoulders should be performed very gently to avoid injuring the affected areas. This is true after not only after surgery but also after radiation.
- The most common sites for swelling are in the neck and under the chin, although face and inside the mouth may also swell. Swelling, in addition to scarring, may affect your ability to swallow, turn your neck, speak, breathe, move your shoulders, and may impact cosmetic appearance.
- Although head and neck lymphedema is well documented, referral to a qualified Certified Lymphedema Therapist and awareness of the risk of lymphedema is often less than optimal. Ask your doctor, nurse, or support group for a referral to a Certified Lymphedema Therapist after head and neck cancer treatment to ensure you get the best and most thorough care possible.
If you are recovering from head or neck cancer, contact OrthoRehab Specialists today. We now offer rehabilitation therapy for head and neck cancer patients.