An Interview with a Therapist
Lymphedema (limf-uh-dee-muh) is a build-up of lymph fluid in the fatty tissues just under the skin. This build-up causes swelling (or edema), most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema can also affect the face, neck, abdomen (belly), and genitals – depending on the part of the body that was treated. There are 2 types of lymphedema:
Primary lymphedema occurs in people born with genes that put them at an increased risk of developing lymphedema. This lymphedema is caused by lymph nodes or vessels that are missing or not working the way they should. This type of lymphedema is rare.
Secondary lymphedema is a result of cancer, cancer treatments, tumors, diseases, or anything that changes or damages the normal, healthy lymph system.
Danielle Malpezzi, PTA, CLT is a physical therapy assistant certified in Complete Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy(CDT) by the Norton School. She works at the Tannersville and Marshall’s Creek Physical Therapy offices. She answered a few questions about lymphedema for us:
Tell me about yourself.
I was raised in small rural town called Halifax, Pa. Growing up my parents always instilled a sense of respect and compassion for anyone we came across in our lives. That carried on into adulthood and into my decision to become a physical therapist assistant after being in therapy for a sports injury.
What made you get certified in lymphatic drainage?
I personally watched my grandmother battle cancer when I was about 10 years old. I remember feeling helpless not being able to do anything to ease her pain or comfort her. After my grandmother passed, I never lost sight of those feelings. When I had the opportunity to become certified, I jumped at the chance to make a difference.
What is lymphatic drainage?
Lymphatic drainage, is a multiple step treatment that is designed to decrease the girth size of any affected part of the body. Although the word “drainage” is used, there are no incisions or needles used in this technique. Part of CDT is manual lymphatic drainage which is a gentle manual manipulation of the skin to help promote lymph flow to other working lymph node areas of the body.
What types of patients do you treat?
I have treated a wide variety of patients from post mastectomy to post pregnancy and cosmetic surgeries. Some patients do not need full lymphatic treatment, but they still benefit from becoming educated in the signs and prevention of lymphedema.
How has this made a difference in people battling cancer?
A full body wellness approach is what I find to be the most beneficial for every person that comes through my door. The mix of Physical Therapy and Lymphedema Therapy allows individuals to gain functional mobility due to decreasing their edema. Exercise and self-management also helps the patient mentally and emotionally. After treatment, patients have shared they feel an increase in energy, strength and overall well-being.
For more information about Lymphedema and its treatment, or to schedule an appointment, please contact Tannersville Physical Therapy office at
570-629-4921. Please visit our website at