Lymphedema is a chronic condition involving fluid build-up in soft body tissue that can be progressively debilitating if not managed properly. UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Support Program physical therapist Valerie Collins is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT-LANA). Collins explains, “We can’t prevent lymphedema, but we can manage the symptoms and progression.” She adds, “we have so many patients who can’t even afford the gas to come to see us let alone the cost of the compression garments that are necessary to retain good treatment outcomes.”
The program, entitled, TLC-UNC: Transforming Lymphedema Care for Underserved North Carolinians will dramatically improve lymphedema care for underserved breast cancer survivors in central North Carolina by targeting multiple aspects of comprehensive lymphedema care. The project will provide lymphedema treatment services at UNC and its community partner site including the necessary compression garments. Lymphedema education via classes, workbooks and DVDs will be offered and disseminated to community partners and shared across the state. The program also focuses on statewide educational and collaborative opportunities for certified lymphedema therapists in partnership with the NC Lymphedema Network.
Director of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, Donald Rosenstein, MD explains the need for lymphedema education and access to treatment. “We want fully engaged and informed patients who understand how to minimize the risks of lymphedema, and we also need to improve their access to care. Many breast cancer survivors don’t have access to lymphedema care due to gaps in insurance coverage. We want to raise the bar for lymphedema awareness and management.”
Occupational therapist Theresa Gilliam, OTR/L, ATP, CLT-LANA, is thrilled to see this project funded. “This is an amazing moment for me to see this check presented. Lymphedema is a huge problem for breast cancer survivors. These funds will allow us to provide lymphedema care and treatment to people who desperately need it.”