Arm Swelling After Breast Cancer Surgery and Radiation

Arm Swelling After Breast Cancer Surgery and Radiation
Lymphatic Health After Breast Cancer Surgery and Radiation.

Arm Swelling After Breast Cancer Surgery and Radiation

If you’ve recently had surgery to test lymph nodes for cancer cells (biopsy), undergone lumpectomy, mastectomy or radiation to the chest wall and armpit, you may want to think about ways to prevent arm swelling.

After surgery and radiation, lymph fluid may not flow as freely through the lymphatic system as surgery has removed some of the channels that would have carried the fluid. Radiation can close down some of those lymphatic channels also.

Once surgery and radiation are complete focus needs be on supporting your lymphatic system especially in and around the treated area.

Scarring from surgery and radiation can disrupt the flow of fluid however there are several alternative routes where the arm and chest wall drain so lymph fluid may be re-directed to other working vessels.

For this reason it is crucial to work with a qualified Lymphoedema Practitioner, who can design specific treatment plan for your needs, as well as teach you how to establish the best self care practice.

Your Lymphoedema Practitioner can also take a measurement using a device called an L-Dex which produces a Lymphoedema index value that can help determine if you are building up excess extracellular fluid in your at risk limb.

It must be said that Lymphoedema can develop months, or even years after the treatment for cancer, and while there is no known cure – it can be managed.

So how common is Lymphoedema?

According to research by the National Breasts and Ovarian Cancer Centre (2012), conservative estimates suggest that: “At least 20% of patients treated for melanoma, breast, gynaecological or prostate cancers will experience secondary lymphoedema”.

It is important to remember that lymphoedema usually develops gradually over time, so it is important to recognise the early signs and symptoms.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • A feeling of heaviness, tightness or fullness in the limb on the affected side
  • Swelling and/or pitting (pitting– If you press your finger to a swollen area and it leaves a dimple that doesn’t go away after a few seconds this is referred to pitting oedema).
  • Ache, pain or tension in the arm

If you have recently under gone surgery and radiation or have concerns about persistent swelling and Lymphoedema please feel free to contact Amanda on the details below.

About the Author   Amanda Da-Silva is a Qualified Remedial Massage therapist, and Lymphoedema Practitioner specialising in Oncology Massage and Mastectomy Aftercare.

Amanda Da-Silva

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Harmony Naturopathics – Thirroul: www.harmonynaturopathics.com/

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