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Oncology & Lymphedema Therapy

Our physical and occupational therapists are part of your multidisciplinary cancer treatment team. Oncology trained physical therapists treat musculoskeletal issues and impairments after mastectomy, abdominal or pelvic surgery and throughout different phases of treatment including chemotherapy and radiation. Physical and occupational therapy can help you address, overcome, and prevent pain, fatigue, tightness and decreased function associated with your treatment. Physical and occupational therapy can also help resolve incontinence after prostatectomy. Your rehabilitation team is specially trained to monitor for disease and treatment related side-effects in order to address these side-effects early and avoid long-term limitations. Working with Vail Health Shaw Cancer Center, Vail Health Howard Head Sports Medicine’s oncology specialists treat the symptoms associated with cancer to get you back to the activities you love.

Lymphedema Therapy
Our certified lymphedema therapists specialize in performing manual lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging as needed to improve lymphatic flow and decrease edema. This very gentle massage technique can be used to treat lymphedema related to cancer surgeries and treatments, along with decreasing post-operative edema. We can also assist you with information on compression garments for long term treatment of your lymphedema.

Early Detection & Intervention with SOZO

Early detection helps reduce your risk of getting life-long lymphedema by testing you for early stages of lymphedema with the goal of preventing it from getting worse. Shaw Cancer Center and Howard Head Sports Medicine use a technology called bioimpedence spectroscopy to help detect lymphedema early.  SOZO® is the device that provides a lymphedema measurement called the L-Dex® score. The L-Dex score helps your healthcare provider know if you are getting lymphedema before you feel any signs or symptoms. This early alert allows you to take steps to stop lymphedema from getting worse – or to avoid getting it at all.
  • Test – Before your first treatment we obtain your L-Dex score to have a baseline. Typically additional testing is performed every three months after treatments begins for the first year. This allows us to monitor your L-Dex score. 
  • Trigger – If your L-Dex score increases above normal levels, your healthcare team will evaluate you for early signs of lymphedema.
  • Treat – Your healthcare provider will prescribe the treatment that best fits your condition. For early lymphedema, this may include hands on lymphatic massage with a certified Howard Head Sports Medicine Lymphedema Therapist, and at-home treatment with custom-fit compression garments.

L-Dex Score and SOZO: What is it?
  • L-Dex Score – The L-Dex score helps your healthcare provider know if you are getting lymphedema before you feel any signs or symptoms. It is measured using the SOZO device. A normal L-Dex score is between -10 and +10. Your L-Dex score may be measured before cancer treatment begins to figure out the normal L-Dex score for you.
  • SOZO – The SOZO device is used to measure your L-Dex score. It looks like a scale, but it has places for you to put your hands and feet. You will not feel the SOZO test and it only takes 30 seconds to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

I don’t have lymphedema, can physical or occupational therapy still help me?
Cancer and related treatment affect multiple areas of the body and different body systems. Physical and occupational therapists specially trained in oncology and treatment related side-effects can help address fatigue, chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, cardiotoxicity, tightness, and weakness. They are also trained to monitor side-effects so they can be addressed early and prevent functional decline.

Because of treatment, I am immunocompromised, how can I make sure I don’t get sick coming to your clinic?
We are committed to providing a safe environment for people to seek medical care. All of our therapists and staff are required to wear a mask. Any piece of equipment used with a patient is thoroughly disinfected between use and all of our disinfectants are approved for use against human coronaviruses. In addition to our stringent hospital cleaning protocols, we are doing additional cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces, including clipboards and pens used to complete forms.

What happens at my first session?
At your first session, your therapist will review your medical history and current phase of treatment. A variety of questionnaires, assessments, and exam techniques will be used to determine your current level of function and goals for treatment. You and your therapist will create a comprehensive plan of care and you will be provided with exercises to perform at home in between therapy sessions.

Which insurances do you accept?
Howard Head accepts all major insurances and Medicaid.

Meet the Team