TMC Hospital Hill is the only National Lymphedema Network (NLN) Affiliated Clinic in the Kansas City region. A NLN Affiliated clinic designation means TMC has certified lymphedema therapists that treat patients with lymphedema and other edema related complications.
“Many patients and healthcare providers are not aware there is a treatment for this disease,” said Marcia Beck, TMC APRN and NLN medical advisory committee member. “While treatment is covered for breast cancer patients under the Cancer Rights Act, compression garments are often not covered or prohibitively expensive.”
Lymphedemais the swelling of arms or legs, most commonly due to the removal or damage of lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment. The loss of or damage to lymph nodes prevents the proper drainage of lymph fluid and the build-up causes swelling. While there is not cure for lymphedema, it can be managed with early diagnosis and proper care from certified lymphedema therapists. The most common cancer associated with lymphedema is breast cancer and other head/neck cancer treatments.
Compression garments are the primary way to properly treat and control lymphedema. In addition to pre and post-surgical screenings for lymphedema, full Decongestive Therapy, compression garment measurement/fitting and wound care are vital treatments offered by TMC’s certified lymphedema therapists. However, Medicare beneficiaries and those with state sponsored insurance plans are not eligible for reimbursement for compression garments. Many commercial plans vary widely in their reimbursement structures making care prohibitively expensive for many. While patients can apply for funding through the Marilyn Westbrook Garment fund, a national grass roots effort to make insurance reimbursement mandatory is taking place.
“Ongoing treatment with proper garments and therapy are of the utmost importance for patients with lymphedema,” said Karen Bock, PT, CWS, CLT-LANA and specialty board certified physical therapist in wound care at TMC. “Lymphedema can occur within days of cancer surgery or it may take years and without proper preventive and maintenance care, it can be debilitating for some.”
As part of the 2016 World Lymphedema Awareness Day on March 6, the NLN and its affiliates are drawing attention to the Lymphedema Treatment Act, currently making its way through the U.S. Congress. The bi-partisan act would add lymphedema compression garments and supplies to the list of federally mandated items required that all insurance plans must provide reimbursement for.
This would help all lymphedema patients to have immediate access to the medical supplies and garments they need to prevent the progression of this treatable disease.