Treatments for Lymphedema
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Before we dive too deeply into today’s topic, we’d like to make you aware of a few promotions available at The Breast Place this January. We’re running a 40% off special on our Environ products. Be sure to take advantage of this sale before we run out of stock! The Breast Place is also offering free Laser Genesis with the purchase of 40 units of Botox or more. (P.S. This deal is worth $275!) To start off the New Year right, we’re offering our facial rejuvenation package for $500 off! Mark your calendars, our upcoming VIP Day will take place on January 25th. Make your appointment now for a complimentary consultation and discounted pricing on truSculpt iD! You can read up on how truSculpt iD melts fat and prepare for your appointment here. If you happen to drop by the office before then, we recommend taking a look at The Metabolic Approach to Cancer by Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, L.Ac, FABNO, and Jess Higgins Kelley, MNT. This book deals with deep nutrition, nontoxic bio-individualized therapies, and how the ketogenic diet can be utilized to starve cancer cells. We’ll be carrying a limited stock of these books and they’re available for only $25. If you have any questions about our January specials, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Our last article served to clarify a few facts about lactation. Breastfeeding isn’t always the simplistic, straightforward process it’s portrayed as. It’s important for expectant mothers to comprehend the mechanics of breastfeeding, as this will allow them to anticipate and adapt to certain sticking points. We discussed the three phases of breastmilk development, what to expect during each phase, how to deal with “after pains,” basic tips for latching, and more. Each breastfeeding journey is different and we encourage you to chart your own course with your baby. Whether you breastfeed for six months or six days, you should be equipped with a bevy of knowledge concerning what’s happening within your body. The Breast Place offers lactation consulting services because we understand how difficult and overwhelming the breastfeeding process can be. There’s no reason to go it alone. If you’re having trouble or need answers to your questions about breastfeeding, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with us! As well, be sure to give our last article a quick read!
In this article, we’re discussing potential treatments for lymphedema. Lymphedema is a common post-surgery side effect and something survivors deal with regularly. Characterized by painful swelling, lymphedema is an uncomfortable condition. In this article, we’ll break down why lymphedema occurs before delving into possible treatments. Here at The Breast Place, we help those suffering with lymphedema to restore lymphatic flow, reduce swelling, alleviate pain, and gain their confidence back. If, after this article, you believe you’re suffering from lymphedema–please schedule a consultation with us. The sooner the issue is addressed, the sooner you’ll be back to feeling yourself!
What is lymphedema?
The lymphatic system is one aspect of the immune system. Composed of various tissues, vessels, and organs, the lymphatic system moves lymph throughout the body. While plasma delivers nutrients where necessary, lymph is a water-like substance leftover when the work is done. In and of itself, lymph is not a harmful substance. In fact, quite the opposite. Lymph is crucial for maintaining fluid balance within the body, absorbing fat from the digestive tract, and protecting our bodies from potentially harmful pathogens. Lymph can produce lymphocytes (i.e. white blood cells), which attack bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. However, one of the most important functions of lymph is facilitating the drainage of cellular waste and abnormal cells from the body.
Lymphedema occurs when lymph builds up. This can occur anywhere within the body, but most commonly around the arms, legs, and armpits. Sometimes, during breast cancer, cancerous tumors grow large enough to obstruct the lymphatic drainage process. Likewise, radiation treatments can damage the lymph vessels–those highways along which lymph travels throughout the body–resulting in lymph pooling the surrounding tissue. Surgical breast cancer treatments may entail the loss of certain lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small nodules responsible for keeping track of our lymph drainage. These nodes act as filters, preventing abnormal or cancerous cells from reentering our system. Nodes also produce lymphocytes. There are over 600 lymph nodes in the body and any one of these can become blocked, resulting in lymphedema.
Those with lymphedema will notice the gradual-but-persistent swelling of their arm, leg, or other body parts. Their skin may feel tight or stretched, as well as take on a “leathery” appearance. They may also experience tingling or heaviness in the affected area. Lymphedema can be confirmed by a doctor through the measurement of the affected arm, leg, or other body parts, with its unaffected counterpart. A difference of 2 cm in size is generally an indication of lymphedema. Lymphedema is considered a chronic condition and “incurable.” That said, not all types of lymphedema are made equal. Mild lymphedema may occur immediately after surgery, as a result of the body’s healing process, and resolve itself within a few days. Lymphedema can appear several weeks after surgery, suddenly, then dissipate over time. Or, lymphedema can develop over years, slowly. This last type of lymphedema is considered the most stubborn and will not go away unless treated.
How is lymphedema treated?
Although prevention is always better than a cure, lymphedema cannot always be prevented. Those who have undergone radiation therapy or had lymph nodes removed will be predisposed to developing lymphedema. Exercising regularly after breast cancer treatment is associated with a decreased chance of developing lymphedema, as exercise improves circulation and aids the body in the drainage process. Similarly, exercise is often prescribed as a treatment for lymphedema. Your doctor or a physical therapist might recommend specific exercises for their efficacy in promoting drainage. Wearing compression sleeves or bandages can help alleviate the discomfort of lymphedema. Eating a well-balanced diet full of nutrients, sleeping well and through the night, as well as maintaining a healthy weight also contribute to the dissolution of lymphedema.
You’ll most likely be recommended to keep the swollen area raised, to allow gravity to assist with the drainage process. Lymphedema can stretch the skin and cause it to crack. That’s why skincare is vitally important. To prevent infection, you’ll want to keep your skin moisturized and clean. Your doctor will also be able to advise you on which products you should and should not use. Massage therapy is perhaps the most vital component of lymphedema treatment. Since the body is struggling to move lymph fluid on its own, the manual manipulation of the body’s tissue might help the process along. A massage therapist specialized in treating lymphedema is going to be able to express excess fluid from the swollen area.
Is there anything else I should do if I have lymphedema?
Those with lymphedema are at an increased risk of developing an infection. If one arm is swollen after breast cancer surgery, you shouldn’t have blood drawn from this arm. You should avoid having blood pressure tests performed on this arm or leaning on this arm, too. Avoid wearing tight clothes which might cut off the circulation to the swollen area. Be attentive when shaving. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburns. The swollenness of a lymphedema limb may cause you to be unaware when the limb is exposed to extreme temperatures. Stay vigilant. Try to keep your sodium intake low. If you wound your swollen area, be sure to apply antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage. If, instead of healing, the wound begins to appear red or you develop a fever, contact your doctor right away.
Lymphedema doesn’t have to be forever. The Breast Place is here to help you towards healing! You can schedule a consultation to discuss your lymphedema today. If you have any specific questions about this service, we would be more than happy to answer them! Thank you for reading and we hope you’ll visit The Breast Place blog again soon!