One of the most common types of cancer affecting women today is breast cancer. About one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. During surgery to treat the cancer, lymph nodes are often removed, which can disrupt the flow of lymph and cause swelling. The lymph nodes may also be treated with radiation which can cause damage to the lymphatic system. This does not always occur after surgery or radiation, as sometimes it appears months or even years later. As a result, it’s common for breast cancer patients to develop lymphedema. It’s important to know of your risk factor for this condition, as well as ways that can reduce your risk. Continue reading →
“I fought breast cancer; I’m a fighter! I am cancer free, so what is this lymphedema after breast cancer business? Why was I never told that I could end up with a chronic disease as a complication of my cancer treatments? This lymphedema sucks!” While working in a durable medical supply store that catered to breast cancer patients seeking bras and prostheses, this or a similar sentiment was often heard.
Lymphedema does suck, yet there are ways of reducing your risk of lymphedema after breast cancer. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to hear these women’s sentiments. Going through cancer treatment and receiving a lymphedema diagnosis can be devastating. But were they told and didn’t remember? Had they never been told, and their doctors just hoped for the best? Were their doctors unaware, or did they not want to deal with it?
Dr. Marisa Weiss, chief medical officer of breastcancer.org, says, “I can say from experience that the time right after diagnosis, when you are considering options and planning treatment, is a blur. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed makes it hard to listen, understand, and decide. So even if lymphedema gets mentioned during this time, you may not remember it. Or it may not come up because the focus is on getting you well. So if lymphedema does develop later on, it can feel like yet another insult to the body, one that many women weren’t fully prepared for. The good news is that women can learn to manage it and lead everyday lives. ” Continue reading →