Imagine surviving cancer and then contracting a new chronic disease as a side effect of treatment.
This is the reality for cancer survivors who develop lymphedema with swelling of the limbs, caused by a buildup of lymph fluid.
But as medical device maker ImpediMed points out in its first major consumer campaign, testing and early detection can prevent the debilitating disease.
The Australian company, with its digital health platform Sozo monitoring fluids in body tissue, has partnered with the Lymphatic Education & Research Network and the LIVE Today Foundation on the education and awareness campaign, titled “Lymphedema Can’t”. It includes digital ads and social media posts bearing the emphatic slogan, “Lymphedema can’t ruin my survival, if I catch it early.” “
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Scheduled for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign features posts on Facebook and Twitter urging cancer patients to “take control of their survival”. On a companion website, patients and their families can learn more about the disease and the importance of early detection through routine testing.
“The beauty is that lymphedema develops in stages,” said Joann Yao, senior director of marketing for ImpediMed, noting that patients with breast cancer, melanoma and pelvic cancer are most at risk. Typically, the disease occurs after the lymph nodes have been surgically removed or damaged by radiation.
Caught early, it can be managed at home with simple measures such as massage, stretching and compression clothing. But left untreated, the painful condition can become chronic, restricting movement, requiring intense physical therapy, and potentially leading to infection and hospitalization.
“Our call to action for patients? Get tested, ”Yao said. “What we really want to do is get them to talk to their health care team. “
Newly diagnosed cancer patients have never heard of or are afraid of lymphedema, according to patient advocates and healthcare providers, Yao said. The campaign is therefore “a welcome message to the ears”.
“Surgeons have told us that patients have asked them not to treat their lymph nodes because they were afraid of lymphedema,” she added.
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ImpediMed has developed a non-invasive 30-second test offered by healthcare providers, using the company’s Sozo bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) device. Resembling a scale in a doctor’s office except with places for the hands and feet, the device can detect small fluid changes in the limbs that can signal lymphedema before swelling is visibly noticeable.
The branding campaign stems from ImpediMed’s own research showing that more and more patients are asking or searching for information about lymphedema prevention online.
The campaign website includes a tool to find providers offering the test; printable questions and an information sheet that patients can share with their cancer team; and links to virtual events run by advocates.
The lineup includes a live Facebook event on October 9 “Lymphedema Can’t Ruin My Survival,” featuring Sheri Prentiss, MD, breast cancer and lymphedema survivor and founder of the LIVE Today Foundation patient advocacy group, and from the Boston Lymphatic Symposium on October 30.