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In the weeks and months following breast cancer treatment, some people experience excess fluid buildup in the body and develop lymphedema. It’s known as post-breast cancer treatment lymphedema and is a frustrating diagnosis for someone who’s already battling cancer.
This type of lymphedema occurs most commonly in the arm and breast, but can also arise in the armpit, chest, trunk, and back. It’s often associated with lymph node removal, but not all patients with post-cancer lymphedema have had lymph nodes removed.
Patients may notice the condition first as a tingling sensation after breast cancer treatment, which then progresses to a throbbing ache, persistent pain, swelling, and tightness in the affected area. Meanwhile, their body is struggling to cope with chronic disturbances in the lymphatic system.
Breast Cancer Lymphedema Treatment Options
When faced with the realities of lymphedema, patients are eager for treatment options. The most effective treatment regimen is a comprehensive approach that addresses lymphedema on multiple fronts, under a doctor’s care.
Lifestyle changes like protecting skin from the sun and starting a weight loss plan can make some impact on lymphedema symptoms. A higher BMI is associated with more severe lymphedema symptoms, but the exact reason for this association is not yet clearly understood.
Moderate daily exercise has proven benefits for lymphedema, stimulating fluid flow within the body and reducing swelling. For example, one study found a 15% reduction in lymphedema symptoms through slow, progressive weight training.
However, patients don’t always have the stamina or mobility to exercise in the period following breast cancer treatment. This is why patients often seek other options that may help limit the impact of their lymphedema, like home compression therapy.
Compression Therapy for Breast Cancer Lymphedema
Many leading authorities on breast cancer and lymphedema recommend using sleeves, bandages, and pumps that add compression to control lymphedema. Compression stimulates fluid flow and helps alleviate pain and stiffness.
A lymphatic pump is a type of compression pump a patient can use at home to manage their lymphedema. For someone who is in cancer treatment or recently had radiation or another type of breast cancer therapy, it’s worth talking to a doctor about using a lymphatic pump to support healing and recovery.
Although there is currently no cure for lymphedema, pump compression therapy helps many patients limit the condition’s impact on their lives. For example, Lynn Rowe from Lexington, North Carolina, struggled to manage her lymphedema symptoms for nine years after a mastectomy.
She found relief from a home pump by using it multiple times per week on her affected arm. Lynn summarized her experience by saying, “It has relieved so much swelling and discomfort I suffered with before. I only hope that women who suffer with lymphedema resulting from the removal of lymph nodes during mastectomy could have the same option.”
More Information About Breast Cancer Lymphedema Treatment
To learn more about managing lymphedema symptoms, visit the Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN) website, LymphaticNetwork.org. It’s an excellent resource for doctors and patients who are looking for lymphedema treatment options.
BreastCancer.org also provides lymphedema resources that are specific to people who have developed the condition as a result of breast cancer treatment. The site’s lymphedema treatment page outlines many of the treatment options discussed above, plus answers to common concerns and effective ways to prevent flare-ups.
For lymphatic pumps, Lympha Press provides innovative compression pump home therapy equipment that supports the best possible outcomes for breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema. Learn more at the link below.