This post is part of a three-part conversation series with Dr. Sheri Prentiss, founder and president of the LIVE Today Foundation, and Richard Carreon, managing director and CEO of ImpediMed. Together they discuss their collaboration to improve the treatment, therapy, and prevention of cancer-related lymphedema.
When ImpediMed first reached out to Dr. Sheri Prentiss asking her to be a keynote speaker for a virtual sales event, the philanthropic chemistry was instant.
“The more we talked, the more we realized that a collaboration was inevitable,” recounts Dr. Sheri.
She had started the LIVE Today Foundation to offer lymphedema awareness, education, and support to cancer patients and survivors, but that was all she could provide. ImpediMed’s technology and three-step Lymphedema Prevention Program was the missing piece for creating clinical impact.
In October 2020, ImpediMed and the LIVE Today Foundation joined forces in their shared mission of detecting, treating, and preventing cancer-related lymphedema.
“We’ve established this partnership with Dr. Sheri and the LIVE Today Foundation because we believe that together we can significantly reduce and – we hope one day – eradicate limb lymphedema for patients undergoing cancer treatment,” says Richard Carreon, managing director and CEO of ImpediMed.
A Foot – or Arm – in Both Worlds
Dr. Sheri’s position as both a patient and a medical professional has given her a foot – or arm, in this case – in both worlds, allowing her to act as a liaison between the two.
“I can speak to a group of physicians and other healthcare practitioners and share my story,” says Dr. Sheri.
“I can offer educational tips on diagnosing lymphedema and make them aware there is a clinical assessment tool available that will help their patients live out their survivorship in the best possible way: without struggling with chronic, debilitating lymphedema.”
She knows what physicians want for their patients; she knows, too, the fear patients may feel in the face of a diagnosis or the mistrust they may have for the individuals in the healthcare field, especially as patients of color.
As a Black, female medical professional, Dr. Sheri can help allay those fears: “I can answer questions using language that patients can understand, and I can guide patients in how to advocate for the best quality care they are entitled to.
“Part of what I preach to others is what I had lived throughout my life, and that is you have to speak up and advocate for yourself,” Dr. Sheri continues.
“Yes, there are certain opportunities that should automatically come your way, but if you are in a position where it will not be an automatic for you, shout loud, shout often, and make your shouts count.”
A Reversal of Fate
Dr. Sheri’s LIVE Today Foundation provides free compression garments to the under-resourced, uninsured, and under-insured cancer patients and survivors with lymphedema, but her ultimate goal is to ensure they don’t need those life-long garments at all.
With ImpediMed’s Lymphedema Prevention Program, healthcare providers can detect subclinical lymphedema and intervene with compression garments before the lymphedema becomes irreversible.
“That final goal now is to get to a place where instead of us providing free compression garments that individuals will be stuck with wearing for the rest of their lives, we would be that middle ground when lymphedema is detected in stages zero and one,” Dr. Sheri explains. In this scenario, patients would only need to wear compression garments for about four weeks.
“After that, those individuals can go on and live out life as usual, and not have to completely reinvent themselves because of chronic, debilitating lymphedema.”
Creating Generational Impact
Research shows that one in three at-risk cancer survivors will develop secondary lymphedema related to their cancer treatment, costing the United States healthcare system approximately $7 billion every year according to ImpediMed estimates.
That says nothing of the immense toll lymphedema takes on the patients themselves, be it physically, emotionally, or financially.
Early detection of fluid accumulation coupled with standard, at-home compression treatment has been shown to reduce lymphedema progression by 95%. The Lymphedema Prevention Program is already in use at some of the country’s leading cancer institutions: Imagine the lasting impact it could have if implemented on a wider scale.
“You and I both know that the struggle we live with – with primary lymphedema or secondary lymphedema – it is real,” says Dr. Sheri. “ImpediMed and the LIVE Today Foundation have a shared goal to bring an end to chronic, debilitating lymphedema and to place lymphedema prevention programs throughout every institution across the globe.”
Outside of creating the foundation itself, Dr. Sheri describes the partnership with ImpediMed to be the most exciting opportunity to cross the LIVE Today Foundation’s path. It’s a chance to put her philanthropic vision into clinical action.
“We have an opportunity to impact survivorship in a way that hasn’t been done before,” emphasizes Dr. Sheri.
“And when you’re talking about 300,000 to 500,000 individuals in the US alone developing secondary lymphedema as a result of their cancer treatment – we have the ability to impact millions of individuals in a way that will have generational impact to come.”
“We could not be more thrilled to be supporting Dr. Sheri, her vision, and the foundation,” adds Carreon. “Together we can – and we will – change medicine.”