eNews Online - May 2002 Edition

eNews Online
May 2002 Edition

This Lymphedema eNews is being generated through your request from our website.

Prevention of Lymphedema

The ReidSleeveŽ RecoveryPlus System is designed for women who have surgery as part of the management of breast cancer. This system is designed to help reduce post-surgical swelling, improve range of motion, strengthen the arm and help reduce the risk of lymphedema. Many doctors prescribe gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to aid in recovery after surgery and the ReidSleeve RecoveryPlus System can help the patient and physician by providing many of the tools needed to help a woman during the reco very period.

Understanding Axillary Dissection and Lymphedema

The axilla or armpit has about 50 to 60 lymph nodes that filter tissue fluid from the breast. The lymph nodes also filter tumor cells that come from a tumor mass in the breast. Residual cancer cells can be harbored in the lymph nodes after removal of the tumor mass within the breast and 10 to 15 lymph nodes are removed to determine if the cancer has spread. The presence or absence of cancer cells within the lymph nodes is an important predictor of whether the cancer has spread within the body. The presence or absence of tumor cells within the lymph nodes is an important factor in determining the need for additional radiation or chemotherapy.

During the axillary dissection, skin, subcutaneous tissue, fat, muscle, and nerves are cut and patients experience swelling, stiffness and reduced range of motion in the shoulder. If nerves are cut, the patient may experience numbness in the arm. Scarring can result in tightness of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that restricts normal movement. Physical therapy can help decrease the swelling and stiffness and restore full movement of the shoulder after axillary dissection.

Axillary dissection can lead to lymphedema. The disruption of the lymphatic vessels may not permit adequate drainage of the lymphatic fluid and may lead to the accumulation of fluid (lymphedema) in the tissues. Swelling is common after the surgery and generally subsides over time; however, lymphedema can become a serious and chronic problem. Effective treatment and preventative measures are important to help prevent lymphedema. These preventative measures include restoration of normal range of motion and c ontrol of post-operative edema.

Preoperative Evaluation

Prior to surgery measurements of the circumference of the arm and the normal range of motion should be recorded. Commonly, the circumference is determined at the palm, wrist, and 10 centimeters below and 15 centimeters above the elbow; however, many physicians and therapist prefer to obtain additional measurements. Following surgery, arm circumference and range of motion are monitored to evaluate recovery of function.

Post-operative Rehabilitation

The doctor or physical therapist will determine the post-operative exercise plan. A common routine is to start light range of motion exercises such as shoulder shrugs and shoulder circles; arm raises and wall-walks after the drains are removed. It is common to feel pain and pulling at the site of the surgical incision. Gentle exercises such as squeezing a soft foam ball and isometrics can help retain and build strength. Stretches are taken to the point where a slight discomfort is felt and held for a few s econds. Many therapists suggest 10 to 15 repetitions 2 to 3 times a day. If these exercises are tolerated, additional strengthening and stretching exercises.

National Lymphedema Network Conference

The 5th National Lymphedema Network International Conference is once again coming up. Amazing how fast two years go!

This year it is being held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. The dates of the conference are from August 28th - September 1st, 2002.

Registration is still open and easy to register on-line. Visit their web site, www.lymphnet.org and they have information about the conference and on-line registration available.

This conference is held every two years and continues to grow in participants every year. It is not only very educational, but gives lymphedema patients and care providers an opportunity to meet and share knowledge and hope. There are many excellent speakers and workshops. Most providers of garments, supplies, support, and equipment have exhibits also.

Peninsula Medical will be exhibiting and we always look forward to meeting up with old friends, meeting new friends, putting faces to voices and enjoying the inspirational environment that this conference generates.

We plan on holding hourly raffle drawings as well as a grand prize raffle on Saturday.

We encourage anyone who can make this conference to check out the web site and get registered!