What is the Treatment?
If a woman notes hand or arm swelling following lymph node surgery for breast cancer, she should first be seen by her physician to make sure she does not have a recurrence. If the physician’s examination is negative (which it usually is) she should then be referred to a lymphedema treatment center.
Proper treatment includes a form of massage therapy called Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). Following massage, the therapist wraps the affected extremity in bandages to maintain the reduction obtained with massage. Exercises and skin care instructions are included in a comprehensive treatment program. During the course of treatment, the patient and a partner are trained in self-care. There is no cure for this condition so lifelong maintenance is important to control the symptoms of lymphedema. Patients with lymphedema are at an increased risk of infection because of the high protein content of the fluid provides the perfect media for bacteria to flourish. It is important for patients to recognize any signs of infection and to start antibiotic treatment as soon as possible.
Other Sources of information:
The National Lymphedema Network (800-541-3259) provides a newsletter that enables patients and healthcare providers to share experiences and information about lymphedema.