Lymphoedema… What You Need to Know!
What is Lymphoedema? Are you At Risk?
In Australia the main cause of Lymphoedema, occurs after treatment for cancer, when lymph nodes are removed from the body by surgery or through damage by radiotherapy.
Lymphoedema is medically defined as a symptom of an underlying malfunction of the lymphatic system.
Lymphoedema is not the same as swelling that immediately follows surgery or injury, as some swelling is a natural part of the bodies healing process. It is a persistent and gradual build up of fluid to an area of the body. For example Lymphoedema may affect the arm after surgery, lymph node removal and/ or treatment to the nodes in the arm pit.
Secondary Lymphoedema can develop months, or even years after treatment for cancer, and usually develops gradually over time.The risk for developing Lymphoedema is higher for people who have several lymph nodes removed, and those who have both surgery and radiotherapy.
Most people who have surgery and node removal will not develop lymphoedema however it is important to self examine potential areas at risk of lymphoedema and be aware of any changes or persistent swelling.
There are some actions that you can take to reduce your risk of developing Lymphoedema or to help the condition from getting worse.
1. Keep active, and also take rest.
It is recommended that you follow a gentle exercise routine. Not all exercise is created equal when dealing with lymphedema. Gentle, low impact and consistent exercise is best. Don’t overexert yourself, start where you are and slowly build up.
Activities such as swimming, walking, yoga, cycling and light body strengthening are considered to be beneficial for reducing your risk of developing lymphoedema.
2. Support Your Lymphatic System
Avoid activities that will put extra strain on your lymphatic system such as
Be sure to wear comfortable clothing, including shoes and jewellery.
Garments that are too tight and cut off circulation can hinder natural lymphatic flow.
Be sure to avoid hot baths, saunas and spas as heat is known to exasperate swelling. Keep cool during hot weather and avoid getting sunburn to the affected area.
3. Skin Care
The skin acts as an important barrier against infection. If the skin is broken bacteria can enter the body and create infection. Infections may cause or worsen lymphoedema in the affected area.
Tips for skin care include regular moisturising of the skin to ensure that it has supple, natural coconut, almond oil or Jojoba oil are considered the best.
Be sure to clean any scratches, cuts and grazes immediately using an antiseptic solution, followed by an antibacterial cream and cover the area with a clean dry plaster.
4. Get regular Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
Receiving regular Manual Lymphatic Drainage (or Decongestive Therapy) is a proactive way to ensure that your lymphatic system is being supported, as well as monitoring your risk of Lymphoedema.
During your treatment session your Lymphoedema Practitioner will create an individualised treatment program based on your needs to ensure that your healthy lymphatic vessels are working and that any persistent fluid is redirected.
In addition to receiving a nurturing and relaxing massage your lymphatic Lymphoedema Therapist will take base line and follow up measurements, and will monitor any changes to the tissue of areas at risk.
Your Qualified Lymphoedema Therapist can also teach you self care massage techniques, so you that you may keep a routine in between treatments sessions.
If you have concerns about Lymphoedema or persistent swelling please feel free to contact Amanda on the details below.
Read to enhance your recovery? Save time and book online. Amanda offers treatments in a private clinic setting in Bangalow, New South Wales.
For more information visit recoverymassage or call reception on: (02) 8001 6393.
About the Author Amanda Da- Silva is a Certified Lymphoedema Practitioner and Oncology Massage Therapist. Specialising in treatment and management for primary and Breast Cancer Related Lymphoedema. Amanda offers Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Decongestive Therapy, Breast Health, Mastectomy Aftercare and Breast Cancer Recovery.