Lymphedema affects approximately one out of every three cancer survivors. Essentially a build-up of fluid caused by damage to the lymphatic system during cancer treatment, it results in swollen limbs and a higher risk of infection — and serves as a constant reminder of the cancer treatment.
Chronic late-stage lymphedema can require expensive therapy, pneumatic compression pumps and even surgery. If it is detected early, however, simple at-home measures like self-massage, stretching and the occasional wearing of compression garments can control it.
To that point, ImpediMed’s goal with its first direct-to-consumer campaign, “Lymphedema Can’t,” is to encourage routine testing using the Sozo Digital Health Platform, which measures a patient’s L-Dex score. In 95% of cases where lymphedema is detected early, its progression can be slowed or stopped.
“We have heard from surgeons that they have patients who don’t want a cancer treatment because they are scared of lymphedema,” said ImpediMed senior director, marketing Joann Yao. “We were on a call recently with a surgeon in Houston and she said the last thing a patient said to her before going under for her surgery was, ‘I don’t want to get lymphedema.’”
There’s a secondary component to “Lymphedema Can’t,” Yao noted. “At the time of diagnosis, about half of cancer patients are completely unaware of lymphedema,” she explained. “The other half are scared of it.”
That’s why the campaign focuses on two core goals: awareness and empowerment.
The campaign’s principal elements include a landing page, where patients can locate physicians and avail themselves of essential questions to discuss with their HCPs. A Facebook Live event on October 9 was hosted by Dr. Sheri Prentiss, a breast cancer and lymphedema survivor. ImpediMed is also sponsoring the Boston Lymphatic Symposium on October 30.
“We want to keep this simple,” Yao said. “Cancer patients receive a lot of information and there’s a lot to digest, but ultimately lymphedema prevention should be simple.”
Also central to the campaign is a heavy presence across social media platforms, in partnership with the Lymphatic Education and Research Network and the Live Today Foundation. “We’re further amplifying the get-tested message with display ads running with various breast cancer organizations,” said ImpediMed marketing product manager, digital Nu Huynh.
Some invaluable assistance with spreading the campaign’s message came early in the campaign from actor Kathy Bates, a cancer and lymphedema survivor. She tweeted, “Wish this had been available in 2012!” to her 429,000 followers.
“We are excited about what we have seen so far and the positive response,” Yao said. “We want to get more patient advocate groups on board to grow in the coming year. October is a big push, but it won’t stop.”