Manage Your Lymphedema

Started by anonymous, March 17, 2015
2 replies for this topic
anonymous

N/A
N/A
Posted on
March 17, 2015
As a side effect of breast cancer treatment, many women develop lymphedema in the arm and upper body. 

Lymphedema is a result of change to the lymphatic system, often with lymph node removal during surgery or radiation to the area. The main function of the lymphatic system is to move excess fluid and protein from the extremities and return it to the vascular system. With the disruption to the lymphatic system, the body is not able to properly move fluid, waste material and proteins out of the arm.  This fluid accumulation results in swelling of the arm and trunk. 

The main complaints women express are: heaviness in the arm, tightness in the skin, limited flexibility of the arm, sensitivity to touch, change in sensation, skin changes, and limited functional use of the hand and arm.

There are strategies you can take in your cancer treatment and recovery to reduce your severity of lymphedema and improve the normal use of your arm. 

Daily self-massage:  Your arm hangs down for most of the day, which means it is subject to the effects of gravity. Over the course of the day, fluid can accumulate in your hands and lower arm, as gravity pulls fluid down (and the lymphatic system is not working properly to bring it back up to circulate).  Therefore, you should practice self-massage to assist the fluid return to the circulatory system. 

To perform this technique, you will lightly stroke the surface of your skin, with the pressure you would use to pet a cat (too much pressure will make the lymphedema worse).  Start at your chest and lightly stroke toward your midline.  Then move from your armpit through your chest to your midline.  Next, stroke your upper arm, to your armpit, chest and midline.  Then, stroke your lower arm, to your upper arm, armpit, chest, and midline.  Finally, stroke your hand, to your lower arm, upper arm, armpit, chest, and to your midline. 

It is important to follow this pattern.  Your stroking pattern is meant to clear away upper arm fluid and make room for the rest of the fluid you will move from your lower arm.  Your lymphatic system is made of one way valves, moving fluid toward your heart.  This pattern guides the fluid through the normal path of clearance through an intact lymphatic system.  Your self-massage will only take approximately 10 minutes to perform.  

Use your arm functionally:  It may be tempting to avoid using an arm that is affected with lymphedema. However, it is important to keep using your arm as you normally would. Using your arm regularly will keep normal range of motion in your shoulder and elbow joints.  In addition, using your arm normally will activate a muscle pump phenomenon.  Despite the poorly functioning lymphatic system, you can actively move fluid from your arm by contracting the muscles of your arms. The muscle contraction pushes fluid in a similar way that your lymphatic system would. Therefore, normal use of your arm (reaching, opening doors, fixing your hair, doing dishes etc.) will keep your swelling down.

Monitor arm girth and skin condition:  One of the most important things you should do is monitor the condition of your arm, including the size of the arm and the skin’s appearance. If you notice the arm is getting bigger over the course of several days, it may be necessary to contact your physician. You may need to participate in manual lymphatic drainage. Inspect your skin daily to be sure it is intact and free from discoloration, wounds, or insect bites. Limbs affected with lymphedema are at higher risk for infection or cellulitis.  If you notice a significant change, contact your physician.

Exercise and maintain a healthy weight:  One strategy to reduce your likelihood of developing lymphedema is to maintain a healthy body weight. You should exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.  In a well-designed research study following 138 breast cancer patients for 30 months, researchers found that the risk of developing lymphedema was 3.6 times higher for women with BMIs (body mass index) of 30 or higher (Ridner et al). A normal, healthy BMI range is 18.5-24.9. Therefore, strive to maintain a healthy body weight with regular exercise and a nutritious diet.

Utilize a lymphedema sleeve:  Lymphedema sleeves are garments that provide gentle, sustained pressure over the entire length of your arm and hand. The sleeve prevents excess fluid accumulation. Many women benefit from wearing a lymphedema sleeve daily, while others only wear the sleeve when they are going to be exposed to changes in air pressure, such as during air travel. 

If you are concerned about your lymphedema, speak with your oncologist or certified lymphedema therapist.  Utilize these strategies and take a proactive approach to managing your lymphedema.
 
http://www.curetoday.com/publications/cure/2014/fall2014/Early-Detection-is-Key
 
 
Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Stewart BR, et al.: Body mass index and breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. Support Care Cancer 19 (6): 853-7, 2011.
Report

Page 1 of 1 1

Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 17, 2015
As a side effect of breast cancer treatment, many women develop lymphedema in the arm and upper body. 

Lymphedema is a result of change to the lymphatic system, often with lymph node removal during surgery or radiation to the area. The main function of the lymphatic system is to move excess fluid and protein from the extremities and return it to the vascular system. With the disruption to the lymphatic system, the body is not able to properly move fluid, waste material and proteins out of the arm.  This fluid accumulation results in swelling of the arm and trunk. 

The main complaints women express are: heaviness in the arm, tightness in the skin, limited flexibility of the arm, sensitivity to touch, change in sensation, skin changes, and limited functional use of the hand and arm.

There are strategies you can take in your cancer treatment and recovery to reduce your severity of lymphedema and improve the normal use of your arm. 

Daily self-massage:  Your arm hangs down for most of the day, which means it is subject to the effects of gravity. Over the course of the day, fluid can accumulate in your hands and lower arm, as gravity pulls fluid down (and the lymphatic system is not working properly to bring it back up to circulate).  Therefore, you should practice self-massage to assist the fluid return to the circulatory system. 

To perform this technique, you will lightly stroke the surface of your skin, with the pressure you would use to pet a cat (too much pressure will make the lymphedema worse).  Start at your chest and lightly stroke toward your midline.  Then move from your armpit through your chest to your midline.  Next, stroke your upper arm, to your armpit, chest and midline.  Then, stroke your lower arm, to your upper arm, armpit, chest, and midline.  Finally, stroke your hand, to your lower arm, upper arm, armpit, chest, and to your midline. 

It is important to follow this pattern.  Your stroking pattern is meant to clear away upper arm fluid and make room for the rest of the fluid you will move from your lower arm.  Your lymphatic system is made of one way valves, moving fluid toward your heart.  This pattern guides the fluid through the normal path of clearance through an intact lymphatic system.  Your self-massage will only take approximately 10 minutes to perform.  

Use your arm functionally:  It may be tempting to avoid using an arm that is affected with lymphedema. However, it is important to keep using your arm as you normally would. Using your arm regularly will keep normal range of motion in your shoulder and elbow joints.  In addition, using your arm normally will activate a muscle pump phenomenon.  Despite the poorly functioning lymphatic system, you can actively move fluid from your arm by contracting the muscles of your arms. The muscle contraction pushes fluid in a similar way that your lymphatic system would. Therefore, normal use of your arm (reaching, opening doors, fixing your hair, doing dishes etc.) will keep your swelling down.

Monitor arm girth and skin condition:  One of the most important things you should do is monitor the condition of your arm, including the size of the arm and the skin’s appearance. If you notice the arm is getting bigger over the course of several days, it may be necessary to contact your physician. You may need to participate in manual lymphatic drainage. Inspect your skin daily to be sure it is intact and free from discoloration, wounds, or insect bites. Limbs affected with lymphedema are at higher risk for infection or cellulitis.  If you notice a significant change, contact your physician.

Exercise and maintain a healthy weight:  One strategy to reduce your likelihood of developing lymphedema is to maintain a healthy body weight. You should exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.  In a well-designed research study following 138 breast cancer patients for 30 months, researchers found that the risk of developing lymphedema was 3.6 times higher for women with BMIs (body mass index) of 30 or higher (Ridner et al). A normal, healthy BMI range is 18.5-24.9. Therefore, strive to maintain a healthy body weight with regular exercise and a nutritious diet.

Utilize a lymphedema sleeve:  Lymphedema sleeves are garments that provide gentle, sustained pressure over the entire length of your arm and hand. The sleeve prevents excess fluid accumulation. Many women benefit from wearing a lymphedema sleeve daily, while others only wear the sleeve when they are going to be exposed to changes in air pressure, such as during air travel. 

If you are concerned about your lymphedema, speak with your oncologist or certified lymphedema therapist.  Utilize these strategies and take a proactive approach to managing your lymphedema.
 
http://www.curetoday.com/publications/cure/2014/fall2014/Early-Detection-is-Key
 
 
Ridner SH, Dietrich MS, Stewart BR, et al.: Body mass index and breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. Support Care Cancer 19 (6): 853-7, 2011.
Report
jessica2

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 18, 2015
I'm 34 years old and have had lymphedema for a little over a year. It's a constant struggle to keep the swelling down in my arm and hand. Just the little normal household activities can change the look and feel of my hand and arm. I have a compression sleeve, I bandage regularly and also have a flexi-touch. Not to mention I go regularly to a certified manual lymph drainage therapist. I definitely was not prepared for something else that would remind me of my battle with Breast Cancer each day. I have also been doing a lot of research on reconstruction recently and how it may affect lymphedema. I am planning on having Diep Flap surgery later this summer and hope this will possibly help with my lymphedema. Is there anyone out there that's gone through this same surgery with lyphedema and had positive results?
Report
Phylt

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
March 19, 2015
I am 60 years old and started showing signs of Lymphedema in October, 2013, approx. 5 months after my original Mastectomy. I was immediately treated by a Lymphedema Therapist for several months and wearing compression garments (sleeve & glove) every day. I was also approved for a Lymphedema Pump and using it twice each day...first thing in the morning and last thing at night, continuing to wear the compression garments during my waking hours as well as a night sleeve and hand wrap while I slept. After researching and consulting with a few doctors, I decided to go forward with the DIEP Flap surgery at the end of last summer, specifically to help with my Lymphedema. I also decided to have a Prophylactic Mastectomy at the same time on my other breast. My surgery was a 3-stage process, with stage 1 in August 2014, stage 2 in December 2014 & stage 3 will be in April 2015. I immediately noticed an improvement in my Lymphedema after stage 1 surgery once all the swelling subsided. After stage 2 surgery, the Lymphedema improved even more. I was no longer wearing the compression garments and found that I didn't need to use the pump at all. The Lymphedema wasn't gone and I had some swelling, but it had drastically improved. As time went on, the Lymphedema has returned but, not nearly what it was before surgery. I now wear the compression garments for a few hours each day when I am home and only use the pump at night. All in all, I am very glad I went forward with the surgery even though the Lymphedema is not gone...it has improved and I have found the more I use my arm, the better my Lymphedema is. I am constantly stretching and massaging the scar tissue under my arm and this makes me feel it will continue to improve over time as the scar tissue softens. Best of luck with your surgery and a positive outcome for your Lymphedema.
Report

Page 1 of 1 1

You must log in to use this feature, please click here to login.