Cancer and Lymphedema Therapy

Cancer Physical Therapy and Lymphedema

Cancer and Lymphedema Therapy

Oncology physical therapy is an integral component of the Northwestern Medicine multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment. Our physical therapists have specialized training in post-surgical and post-treatment effects on function, motion, scar tissue, lymphedema and balance.

Through the use of highly personalized treatment sessions, our therapists can:

  • Prevent and reduce cancer-related fatigue and pain
  • Increase muscle mass, strength and endurance
  • Restore balance
  • Improve functionality in performing daily activities
  • Protect against common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
  • Manage weight and lymphedema
  • Regain shoulder range of motion following breast cancer surgery
  • Improve overall quality of life and physical fitness


Lymphedema, the swelling of an arm, leg or other body part caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid, is a common post-cancer surgery or post-radiation occurrence in women and men. It can cause tissue swelling, skin changes, increased risk for chronic infections and slowing of tissue healing.

Our oncology therapists are certified lymphedema therapists, qualified to implement complete decongestive therapy, a non-invasive and painless therapy that includes:

  • Compression bandages between treatments to prevent the fluid from re-accumulating
  • Exercise with bandaging to increase tissue pressure and movement of lymph fluid
  • Manual lymph drainage to reroute lymph fluid around blocked areas
  • Skin care to decrease risk of infections

Lymphedema Treatment

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Physical Therapy Centers provide a comprehensive decongestive therapy program for patients suffering from lymphedema many times due to cancer, surgery or trauma. Our physical therapists are specially trained in treating lymphedema, helping patients all over northern Illinois decrease swelling, improve limb function, mobility, and minimize risk of chronic infections.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid that causes swelling in an extremity trunk region or sometimes head and neck. Many times the swelling occurs when the lymphatic system becomes altered by surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other associated with cancer treatments. It is estimated that about a third of women who undergo axillary lymph node dissection during breast cancer treatment will develop this disease.

Physical Therapy for Lymphedema in DeKalb, Kane and Kendall County

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital offers comprehensive lymphedema treatment for patients in DeKalb, Sycamore, Hampshire, Sandwich, Plano and the surrounding areas who are suffering from lymphedema:

  • Prevention/pre-operative care
  • Post mastectomy/lumpectomy care

Patients must have a prescription from their physician to begin physical therapy treatments. Our physical therapists will then work closely with the physician to develop a therapy plan to effectively manage lymphedema conditions.