My Friend Kayla Kennedy DPT (doctor of physical therapy) and CLT (certified lymphedema therapist) specializes in treating patients who suffer from lymphedema following breast cancer treatment. She is a wealth of knowledge and provided the information below regarding breast cancer and lymphedema. If you or a loved one has been affected by breast cancer, then you’re in the right place. Check out this article to learn what lymphedema is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. Click here to learn more about Kayla.
After breast cancer surgery, localized swelling is normal and should resolve with time. However, if you have had lymph node removal you may be at risk for lymphedema. Lymphedema is a more serious form of swelling that affects the arm or trunk on the same side of your body that the cancer was on. Lymphedema can begin months or years after breast cancer treatment. If diagnosed early, management is much more successful. Education, visual comparison of your arms, and measurements will empower you to recognize the signs and symptoms in the earliest stages when it is easiest to treat.
Signs of Lymphedema
- Swelling in your arm, especially in the evening or after activity
- Heaviness in your arm
- Skin tightness or decreased flexibility in hand/wrist/elbow
- Rings and bracelets are not fitting as they once were
- Aching or general discomfort in your arm
After lymph node removal, there are several steps you can take to decrease the risk of lymphedema.
- Wear a properly fitted garment and sleeve when exercising and when flying. Click here for a free, downloadable PDF with tips on lymphedema and exercise.
- You can get fitted for a garment by a certified lymphedema therapist.
- All patients are different. You may need to wear your sleeve more or less frequently than others depending on the amount and severity of your swelling.
- Avoid having blood pressure readings, injections, and other procedures completed on your affected arm.
- Avoid hot tubs, bug bites, skin irritations, and sunburns to affected arm.
- Practice proper skin hygiene, and use a good lotion with appropriate PH level. Some recommended options include Eucerin, Lymphoderm, or Johnson & Johnson baby lotion.
- Disclaimer: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
- Click here for a free, downloadable PDF with more tips on lymphedema skin care.
If you notice symptoms or are concerned about the possibility of developing lymphedema:
Consult a Certified Lymphedema Therapist. They can help you manage lymphedema with one or more of the following treatments.
- compression and garment fitting
- manual lymphatic drainage
- therapeutic exercise, posture re-training
- at-home mechanical lymphatic pumps
Lymphedema can become a chronic problem if you’ve undergone treatment for breast cancer….as if you haven’t been through enough already! Luckily, there are many things that you can do for prevention. And as with most health concerns, early detection is very important. If you recognize any of the signs above, be sure to find a Lymphedema Therapist near you. If you are not in the Wichita, Kansas area then click here to find a certified lymphedema therapist near you. Together, the two of you can determine the most appropriate treatment options and get to work to ensure that your lifestyle can continue to be as active and comfortable as possible.