What is Lymphedema? The lymphatic system consists of a fluid called lymph, which flows throughout our entire body for detoxification (think of your very own drainage system!). But this system is mostly compromised when one undergoes cancer treatment i.e, radiation and surgery of lymph nodes, which commonly leads to lymphedema. Lymphedema is localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a damage to the lymph nodes. It’s one of the adverse effects of treatment which can happen to both men and women.
Even though it’s a side effect of treatment, many doctors fail to educate cancer patients about the occurrence and the prevention of lymphedema. The patient is totally lost when it occurs suddenly.
In women, it’s most prevalent in the upper limbs after breast cancer surgery, in particular after an axillary lymph node dissection, occurring in the arm on the side of the body in which the surgery is performed. Between 38% and 89% of breast cancer patients suffer from lymphedema due to axillary lymph node dissection and/or radiation.
Many people also need radiation therapy in the chest area and/or underarm because of the cancer spreading. Radiation can cut off or damage some of the nodes and vessels through which the lymph moves, resulting in the blockage of lymph which causes swelling.
Stages of Lymphedema
There are four stages in lymphedema:
- Stage 0 is a condition where the transport capacity is decreased but the remaining lymph vessels manage to push the lymph through and the swelling is not visible.
- Stage 1 is the reversible stage where the swelling is evident in the arms and legs.
- Stage 2 is the irreversible stage in which there is thickening and hardening of the soft tissue and excessive swelling occurs.
- Stage 3 is called lymphostatic elephantiasis. Over here, there is severe hardening of the tissue and swelling which leads to irreversible complications. The volume of the swelling in Stage 2 and 3 can be decreased if treatment is initiated at the right time.
Therefore, implementing lymphedema exercises on a regular basis is essential to healing.
What exercises can be done?
Many research studies have found that exercising regularly i.e, doing yoga, aerobics and mild stretching will decrease the chances of recurrence of lymphedema. The Lymphatic system is between the muscle and the skin, so by expansion, contraction and bouncing the lymph gets stimulated and pumped everywhere.
This breast cancer awareness month, we at CARER are trying to raise awareness about the least spoken side effect of treatment, lymphedema. To know more about CARER visit us at https://www.carerprogram.com/
CARER has a segment which addresses Lymphedema and has provided you with a lymphedema exercise chart that can be followed and practiced at home because exercising with the right guidance is more effective and beneficial and those who should practice the Lymphedema exercises regularly are the following:
- Patients who have recently had their lymph nodes removed.
- Patients who have recently had their lymph nodes irradiated.
The exercises which we have provided are simple and easy to do at home. We focus on both upper extremity as well as lower extremity lymphatic exercises along with neck, pelvic, shoulders and arms, which is where the lymphedema occurs.
As a lymphedema compression garment is essential, we have also gone one step ahead and provided you the resource of where you can buy the compression garments. Proxima is a specialist in providing its clients with proper attire to protect you from lymphedema or manage and control symptoms. Proxima Speciality Healthcare Since being founded in 2010, has grown into the India’s leading manufacturer and distributor of custom made and readymade medical grade compression garments.
The best solution to lymphedema is to plan a lymphedema exercise chart and to follow it regularly. You can also consult a lymphedema exercise specialist to get a personalised exercise chart specifically for you. It’s important for you not to take this side effect of treatment lightly and implement the right measures to make sure you are at no risks of lymphedema.