What is Lymphedema?
One of the potential side effects of cancer treatment can be lymphedema. Yet, many women are unaware of it - until it's too late.
What is lymphedema? To start, your lymphatic system moves fluid throughout your tissues. As it moves the fluid picks up waste products, bacteria, dead cells and large protein molecules. The waste products are carried to the lymph nodes to be broken down and eliminated, while the protein rich fluid is transported back to the heart to rejoin circulation.
Lymphedema develops when the lymph vessels are unable to circulate lymph fluid, and it accumulates resulting in chronic swelling. The inability to circulate fluid is generally the result of damage to the lymphatic system. In women with breast cancer this can be due to a mastectomy, lumpectomy or having lymph nodes removed as a part of surgery. Lymphedema is something that may develop soon following your surgery, years later or even not at all. Symptoms may include a tightness or heaviness in your arm, and/or changes in the texture of your skin. A major symptom is swelling characterized by “pitting”, or when the skin is depressed for a few seconds and the indentation does not immediately disappear.
There is no cure for lymphedema and once you have been diagnosed you will need to perform self-manual lymph drainage and therapeutic exercises to ensure that your swelling is reduced and maintained. It is very important to be aware of your affected arm after a diagnosis. Exercising, wearing tight or restrictive clothing, carrying a heavy purse and flying are all things that can increase swelling. It is also a good idea to avoid blood pressure checks, IV’s, blood draws and shots in your affected limb, as this can cause further damage to the lymphatic system.
You may be asked to wear a compression bra, compression sleeve and/or a glove or gauntlet to help move the fluid and reduce the swelling. There are also different wraps and pads that can be used for at night to help reduce the swelling.
7 Signs Your Bra Doesn't Fit Right
How do you know if your bra isn't fitting right? These five signs are a dead give away:
- Your shoulder straps slide off or dig in
- Your breast doesn't fill the whole cup
- Your breast overflows beyond the cup
- Your band rides up your back
- Your band feels tight
- You have poor posture & back issues
- Your shoulders slope
If you're experiencing any of these, please schedule a complimentary fitting today with one of our Certified Fitters. Your body will thank you for it.