March is Lymphedema Awareness Month. March 6th is World Lymphedema Day. How can you make people aware of lymphedema? Three suggestions:
- Contact your legislators
- Contact your doctor
- Print free infographics to hand out
Did you know Medicare does not pay for lymphedema treatment supplies or compression? Ironically, the same government that runs Medicare passed a law called the “Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act” requiring other insurance companies to pay for lymphedema supplies and compression due to mastectomy resulting from breast cancer.1, 2 Yet Medicare isn’t held to the same requirement. Isn’t that a double standard? Part of the discrepancy may be a result of poor awareness. You can do something to help! Support the Lymphedema Treatment Act. The LTA website makes it easy and provides an email and platform to contact your senators and representative(s) in just a few clicks.
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Wei Chen, a plastic surgeon who specializes in lymphatic surgery. He commented that patients had cried in his office before because he was the first doctor to understand their condition. In Facebook feeds and reports from my own patients, I hear time and again how people with lymphedema are misdiagnosed, undiagnosed or incorrectly treated. Why is that?
Years ago I had a personal mentor whose husband was a pediatric surgeon. As I sat across the dinner table one Easter, I asked how much training physicians get in school about lymphedema. He held his hand up, separated his index finger from his thumb slightly and said, “about this much.” He explained there is so much information to cover in med school, there just isn’t time. Most of what is learned relates to immunity. Another physician (head of the acute care dept in a major Dallas hospital) contacted me to ask about care for a relative. Frustrated, he said, “they don’t teach us this stuff in med school.”
You can help your doctor become more aware by giving them a fact sheet from the LTA website or this brochure from the Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LERN). More free educational resources from the International Lymphedema Framework can be found here. You can encourage interest by suggesting they can earn CMEs. Licensure requires they obtain 48 hours of continuing medical education hours (CMEs) every two years. Physicians can earn a free CME here until 02/24/2022. They can earn up to (7) CMEs online here.
Print free infographics to hand out
If you have lymphedema, you’re bound to be asked a question now and then. Don’t be offended. You have an opportunity to educate others! If you don’t want to talk, give the inquirer this infographic. You’ll be helping spread awareness for yourself and others.