Lymphedema after mastectomy is a common long term after-effect of the procedure of mastectomy (surgical removal of mammary glands/breasts) and can be really painful and discomforting to the recuperating female patient. Lymphedema can appear many months or years later after the surgery and recovery have been completed, and hence remains undetected if one is not careful enough.
The signs of lymphedema after mastectomy include abnormal swelling in arms or legs caused due to the accumulation of excessive lymphatic fluid in the affected area and is common in both males and females after radiation therapy, lumpectomy and/or mastectomy. These procedures impair the proper functioning of the lymphatic system as they damage/alter the lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are actually our body’s silent helpers which remove the toxins/harmful wastes and bacteria and provide lymphocytes, the tough allies to our immune system. Swelling of these nodes hence puts a lot of pressure on the entire Lymphatic system, thereby necessitating the need for an immediate attention and early medical intervention.
In severe cases, just like Lipedema, post mastectomy Lymphedema can cause severe disability to the free movement of legs or arms. Unfortunately, a cure for Lymphedema has not been discovered so far, but it can be controlled and prevented from getting severe.
Going for a mastectomy is not an easy decision in itself and the persistent risk of Lymphedema throughout one's life due to an infection or the lymphatic system’s inability to drain fluids effectively because of the reduced number of lymph nodes, can cause a lot of self-negativity in some women.
But before you learn how to avoid lymphedema after mastectomy, you should not let self-negativity get a grip on your throat. Be a fighter! If you are scheduled for your mastectomy procedure in near future, then raise your awareness about these preventive cures and treatment options. Treatment here refers to controlling the severity of the swollen lymph nodes and easing the pain and discomfort caused due to Lymphedema.
Things to Remember for preventing lymphedema after mastectomy:
Be on alert for signs of swelling or redness on skin- Lymphedema might cause the affected arms to swell disproportionately and your ring and clothes may feel tighter. Always look out for changes in your skin surface to avoid confusing it with weight-gain/obesity.
Drink plenty of water- This is not some empty advice, but the most important thing to be kept in mind. Drinking plentiful water eases the pressure on the nodes and relieves pain caused by the inflammation as also indicated by Lymphedema people
Do not give up on your exercise- Because Lymphedema in arms after mastectomy is fairly common, they need special attention since they are susceptible to swelling, thereby affecting your movement. Especially after mastectomy, arms are affected as the lymph nodes in the armpits are removed/damaged during the surgery. Thus following a regular exercise routine which focuses more on legs and arms and continuing with it post mastectomy would dramatically help women in the long run by retaining the flexibility and movement of the limbs. Raising arms on regular intervals too helps in draining the fluid under gravitational influence.
Follow a healthy diet routine- Lymphedema has more affinity towards abnormal fat and cellulite than muscle mass. Chances are that if you have an ideal muscle mass, you have won half the battle already. There are no shortcuts to good, organically developed muscle mass than following a healthy diet rich in proteins. Munch on those healthy nuts for starters.
Follow personal hygiene and care- Any sort of abrasion or infection might increase the risk of lymphedema after mastectomy. Also doctors suggest that one should use electric razor for hair removal to minimize the chances of infection, coupled with the use of SPFs creams/gels. Even a prick with needle can cause infection, therefore you should always be careful with sharp objects.
Wear compression therapy garments and massage- Last but not the least, aid your overexerted Lymph nodules by wearing compression garments. Massages also assist in draining the excess fluids. Wearing the right fitting and getting a proper massage is the key here.
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