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LE&RN Calls for National Lymphedema Advocate

Executive Director Repicci encourages personalities to step up to help increase social awareness about the condition.


Sebastian, FL -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/19/2014 -- About 10 million Americans (and over 100 million people worldwide) suffer from lymphedema, according to (Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN). It is more common than multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer combined. In time for Lymphedema Awareness Month this March, LE&RN Executive Director William Repicci wrote two articles, one of which calls on for a spokesperson who will step forward and act as an ambassador to help make people aware about the condition which receives little attention.

Lymphedema is a medical condition wherein excessive amounts of protein-rich fluid accumulate, causing swelling in one or more regions of the body. This is caused by the lymphatic system’s mechanical failure which happens when the demand for lymphatic drainage exceeds the capacity of the lymphatic circulation. It usually affects the limbs, and may sometimes include the trunk, breast, head and neck or genital area.

According to Repicci, the disease has never caught the attention given diseases which affect far fewer patients. One reason is that the lymphatic system is often disregarded in medical curricula, which leaves doctors often baffled to diagnose or treat the condition. In effect, lymphedema sufferers are often unaware of the disease, and thus ignorant that millions endure likewise.

Majority of American lymphedema sufferers are cancer survivors. There has been an inclination from patients to underplay this side effect from cancer treatment, even though these people claim the condition can be worse than cancer. Its sufferers often report a sense of shame about the condition which causes them to hide it. It can also inflict those who suffered physical trauma, which makes military personnel as another group of candidates for the disease.

Repicci stated the importance of having a national public figure, a spokesperson to become the “face” of lymphedema to increase social awareness about the condition. He mentioned speaking to physicians who divulged treating several famous Hollywood celebrities whose careers have hit rock bottom due to the onset of lymphedema. However, none of the stars came forward. Ingrid Bergman was documented to have an ordeal from lymphedema after a breast cancer surgery in 1974, which progressed and became more severe after the metastasized cancer came back in 1977 which continued until her death in 1982.

The executive director also cited looking for advocates who are political figures. He noted Hillary Clinton acquiring the condition after giving birth to Chelsea, as stated on Ed Klein’s book – The Truth About Hillary. He also revealed a Fox News report on December 30, 2008 which accounted Sen. John McCain’s melanoma treatment left his face swollen. Repicci declared neither confirmation nor denial came from Clinton and McCain.

Repicci called out for a national dialogue to make lymphatic disease and lymphedema a national priority. He invoked Michael J. Fox’s role in stepping up as a champion for Parkinson’s disease which resulted in public awareness and funding for its research.

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