Tag: lymphedema

Tai Chi for Cancer Patients

Moving meditation is often how tai chi is described.  For those who have problems sitting still, tai chi is a wonderful option for meditation.  It focuses the mind using the body as a breathing organism, moving chi through the pathways of mind, body and spirit.

Tai chi can be done anywhere – inside, outside, while travelling, at home, with a group.  Creating a time for daily practise reaps huge benefits, especially at a time such as cancer when stress is high.  Streaming energy (chi) through the body helps combat the fatigue and depression often associate with cancer treatment.

Due to the flowing and gentle nature of tai chi, it is also a wonderful exercise for lymphedema – both as risk reduction and management.  Lymphedema is often a side effect of cancer treatment, especially for breast cancer patients.  Lymphedema can also occur in lower extremeties due to prostate, colon, etc. surgeries and treatment.

Understanding Lymphedema

Lymphedema is still largely unknown or understood as a side effect of cancer.  Yet, lymphedema happens to many people when they undergo cancer surgery and treatment.

Lymphedema, once diagnosed, is a chronic condition and can be a lasting reminder of cancer.  It is something that people then have to manage which is not always easy.

There are several books for cancer patients that will help you understand lymphedema.  If you are scheduled for cancer surgery, treatment, etc., I would advise you to become aware of the possibility of lymphedema.  There are several practical tips that will help you reduce the risk of lymphedema.

Once aware, you can take steps to be proactive.

Simple Solutions to Reduce Swelling Caused by Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a medical condition often caused by the removal of lymph nodes during a cancer surgery. For breast cancer survivors, this condition may occur in the arm and can cause swelling due to the reduction in lymphatic flow, which backs up the lymphatic fluid when under pressure. While permanent solutions for the pain or discomfort caused by Lymphedema do not exist, there are ways to cope and helpful products that provide some relief on a day-to-day basis.

To manage the swelling of Arm Lymphedema, patients may purchase a ready-to-wear armsleeve, or preferably a prescribed sleeve from a qualified lymphedema therapist. The sleeve provides compression to the swelling and is also a valuable when traveling by plane, as high altitudes can cause swelling to worsen. There are exercises you can do from home to help reduce swelling and a special massage, called a manual lymph drainage massage, which manually moves the fluid from where it has settled.

Research your options – there are many – because no one deserves to suffer.

Lymphedema Protection for Air Travel

Since I’m due to travel shortly, the thought of lymphedema prevention and protection has crossed my mind.  This is an area that people often overlook – feel they are safe and don’t need to worry.  Wrong.  The air pressure in the aircraft cabin can affect the lymph drainage in your arm, especially if you have had node dissection for breast cancer.

Wearing a lower compression lymphedema sleeve reduces your risk of getting lymphedema during travel.  I found the one with a gauntlet (or glove) attached easier to manage rather than having two pieces.  It is easy to slip the glove part off when washing your hands. 

Also, having the lymphedema sleeve on is a great reminder to be careful when lifting your luggage, especially lifting heavy luggage.  The recommended weight for lifting is 15 pounds.  Get help if you need it.  Most people are willing to be of assistance.

Torso Swelling Side Effect of Cancer Treatment

Lymphedema or swelling of the arm or leg is not well understood but at least more common.  There is a lot of education and awareness around this subject that is absolutely needed.

What is less known is swelling of the torso.  It can come from breast cancer surgery and radiation treatment.  I’ve also seen torso swelling in those who have had cancer and surgery in the neck area.

In order to manage this swelling, look for a compression bra or mastectomy camisole that has the compression factor.  There are garments listed as slimmers or shapers, not to be confused with the Spanx garments.  Compression garments for torso swelling have a graduated compression which moves the lymph fluid.

Some of the slimmers or camisoles are very fashionable and can be worn in place of a bra under a suit or sweater.  They also work nicely in layering for a more casual look.  Definitely chic!

Lymphedema: A Lifestyle Shift after Cancer

Lymphedema is a swelling of the arm and/or leg after surgery.  Breast cancer and prostate cancer are the two most likely causes.  Once you have lymphedema, it is a matter of managing the symptoms as there is no cure.  I have talked about ways to reduce your risk, but once you have lymphedema, it is a matter of adapting it into your lifestyle.

One area will be the wearing of a lymphedema sleeve for arm lymphedema or a compression bra and/or camisole for torso lymphedema.  You will need to be fitted properly by a trained lymphedema specialist who will diagnose your condition, provide initial manual lymphatic massage and bandaging to bring the arm or torso to a stable condition.  They will then prescibe the proper tension and sizing for the compression garment.  For some, you will be able to claim this garment on your health insurance.

There are also options for special arm lymphedema sleeves for nighttime use to eliminate the need for bandaging.

As you get familiar with your options, life will move on and you will incorporate these garments into your lifestyle.

Exercise Beneficial for Cancer Healing

There have been many studies on the benefits of exercise for lymphdema and cancer rehabilitation.  Exercise get the heart rate up and in doing so, it moves oxygen into the body.  Cancer does not thrive in oxygen.

Flexibility is important, especially after cancer surgeries.  Gentle movements minimize the build up of scar tissue, decrease the risk of frozen shoulder (i.e. breast cancer), and reduce the risk of lymphedema (both upper and lower extremities) by improving the flow of lymph fluid.

Plus, exercise to music and being part of a group is fun.  There can be lots of laughter at a time when life is threatening.  Additional benefits are improved self-esteem, conditioning, and more energy.  There is everything to gain and nothing to lose by participating.

Air Travel – Do You Protect Your Arm?

It amazes me how many women who have had breast cancer surgery do not understand the need to wear a preventive sleeve when they travel by air to reduce the risk of lymphedema.  It came up again the other day in a conversation with someone I thought would have known.

Most women understand that once they get lymphedema, they need to wear a sleeve.  However, there is a lymphedema sleeve with lower compression that is designed to be worn as a preventive measure.  I always wear mine when travelling.  The air pressure in the cabin can cause a build up of fluid.  I did recently read some research that disclaimed this, but the fact is, I do know of people who got lymphedema from cabin pressure.  I’d rather be safe then sorry.  It doesn’t take much to wear a sleeve.

Easy Exercise for Lymphedema

When going through surgery for breast cancer, lymph nodes under the arm are often removed.  This removal will forever impede the flow of lymph fluid in this area as lymph nodes do not grow back.

Exercise for lymphedema risk reduction is important.  The following simple exercises, when done prior to strenuous physical activity, open the lymphatic drains and allow for proper lymph drainage; thereby greatly reducing the risk of lymphedema.

1. Blow bubbles – just like when you were a kid – facilitates deep belly breathing.

2. Head – move forward and back (not past center), tilt to the side, turn right and left, and modified head rolls (just a big smile on your chest – no taking the head back of center).

3. Shoulders – up and down, shoulder rolls

4. Arm circles – across the body (both ways) and at your side (frontwards and backwards).

All the above exercises are much more fun done with music.  Make sure you do them slowly and smoothly.

Have fun – get moving – exercise is highly recommended for cancer recovery.

Exercise for Lymphedema

While there is no cure for lymphedema, there are several ways to reduce the risks and promote decongestion in your limbs. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through exercise for lymphedema. When you exercise, the movements of your body increase the lymph flow rate which is an essential component of complete decongestive therapy.

This increase in circulation will reduce swelling by increasing the lymph flow and moving it from the affected area into the bloodstream. And aside from the direct benefits for lymphedema, regular exercise will obviously improve your overall well-being too. There are myraid exercises prescribed to lymphedema sufferers, but it is important to consult your physician before undertaking any program.  Surgery for breast reconstruction may mean waiting until a certain level of healing has occurred.