Lymphedema is a possible result of breast cancer related treatments and surgeries when the lymphatic system, which is the body’s natural system for fluid transport between the cells, is interrupted. Lymphedema makes it more difficult to resume simple daily tasks after cancer surgery and interferes with a woman’s outlook on her recovery. The risk of developing lymphedema is considered to be higher if axillary lymph nodes are removed during surgery as this disrupts the lymphatic pathways permanently. Radiation therapy increases the risk factor for developing lymphedema.
Lymphedema is treatable with knowledge and proper tools!
Pooling of lymphatic fluid, commonly known as edema or swelling, is a by product of any surgery, and this is no different in breast surgery. Rehabilitation specialists have recognized the benefits of early clearing of edema to prevent chronic swelling and tissue scarring. The practice of early decongesting of an injured or surgical area facilitates a speedy recovery and a rapid return to function, and decreases the risk of developing chronic lymphedema.
In untreated lymphedema of the arm and breast resulting from breast cancer related surgical procedures the compounding deconditioning effects may include: shoulder weakness and dysfunction, decreased functional range of motion, pain and chronic swelling. The diagnoses seen in the post breast surgery patient reflect those symptoms and are commonly referred to as acute or chronic lymphedema with fibrosis, frozen shoulder, and axillary web syndrome.
Early clearing of edema and re-gaining range of motion of the arm of the involved side are key factors in achieving a speedy and full recovery after breast surgery.
Participating in an individually tailored rehabilitation and exercise program right after surgery, is the best solution for preventing and treating lymphedema.