TMH Living Well: Hospital offers breast cancer support, including lymphedema treatment
When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, the aftereffects of treatment are usually not the first thing on your mind. Yet, many people survive cancer and look forward to picking up where they left off before the disease. No one anticipates dealing with unexpected side effects such as lymphedema. It’s best to avoid it if you can, because living with lymphedema—swelling in usually your arms or legs — is not pleasant.
“If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or are in the process of receiving treatments for cancer, ask your doctor about how you can be aware of risk factors, signs and symptoms of lymphedema,” said Danika Jost, PT, DPT, CLT, lymphedema specialist with The Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Rehab Services.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of lymph nodes during cancer treatment—a customary practice to stage cancer. It can also be caused by direct damage to lymph nodes due to radiation treatment. Lymphedema is one of the most common side effects of breast cancer treatment.
It’s important to know your risks before getting cancer procedures done. If a single node can be biopsied rather than taking several nodes, that’s ideal. If radiation can be targeted to prevent damage to the lymph system, that’s also smart. It may not prevent lymphedema but it can decrease your chances.
“Once you have lymphedema, it can’t be cured. You’ll have to manage it the rest of your life — and it will progress if left untreated. However, with lymphedema therapy the effects of lymphedema can be greatly reduced,” Jost said.
Our lymphatic system is part of our immune system. It runs throughout our body like our blood vessels. Key areas have many lymph nodes, including our necks, under our arms and in our groin areas. When the system is impaired or damaged, lymph can’t flow properly and fluid gets backed up. The result is swollen, uncomfortable limbs that feel heavy with fluid and may ache. Without treatment, swelling becomes extreme and risk for skin problems and infections increase.
“Our lymph system is essentially a large drainage system. When functioning normally, it pumps itself and is rhythmic and consistent, but when it’s impaired it needs help,” Jost said.
Relief comes in the form of therapy — the most effective treatment is known as CDT or complete digestive therapy.
“Treatment has three components: manual lymphatic drainage which redirects lymph flow and moves the fluid for reabsorption, compression bandaging to decongest the area, and lastly, wearing a compression garment to keep the swelling under control,” Jost said.
Getting treatments as soon as possible, and from a certified, rather than simply informed therapist is important. The Memorial Hospital is dedicated to providing the gold standard of lymphedema treatment.
Besides cancer, there are a few other diseases that cause lymphedema including chronic heart failure and chronic venous insufficiency. For more information on lymphedema services at TMH, call 970-824-5992 or email Danika.email@example.com.
In other cancer news, if you’ve completed treatment for breast cancer but you’ve got leftover emotions and maybe fears of reoccurrence, come be inspired to live your best life after cancer. Bring a friend and enjoy a free lunch! The breast cancer survivors lunch takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 21 in the conference rom of The Memorial Hospital, 750 Hospital Loop.
Also, TMH is offering discounted mammograms during the month of October for $80. Patients need a valid prescription from their healthcare provider. The $80 is due at the time of service, and insurance will not be billed. To schedule call 970-826-3150.
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