March is Lymphedema Awareness Month. I deliberately posted this toward the end of the month because we all put Lymphedema at the end of the line in Breast Cancer. As someone who lives with the realities and challenges of Lymphedema every day, I am passionate about warning Breast Cancer Patients to PAY ATTENTION and get help and information about Lymphedema. Make sure you have attended a Lymphedema Class and arranged a consultation with a Lymphedema Therapist immediately after breast surgery. Preventative actions, treatment and knowing what to look for can help your future in a big way.
If you even have had one lymph node removed, you can get Lymphedema. Surgeons and Oncologists may tell you otherwise. Do not listen to them! I have had plenty of letters from women who had been told, “Don’t worry, you aren’t at risk for Lymphedema” by a physician and then BAM! Lymphedema hits in full force. Some women have gotten this condition with no nodes removed, but that is more rare.
At the very LEAST, your preventative measures should include 1) Wearing a fitted compression sleeve when you fly in an airplane – even for short flights; There is other information out in googleland to the contrary. Do not listen to it. I have met two women who have full-blown Lymphedema after a quick air flight. One had been 20 years out of cancer treatment! 2) When you are lifting heavy items or moving heavy items, make sure to wear a compression sleeve. 3) Lots of repetitive motion like shoveling snow, sweeping, mopping could be cause to wear a compression sleeve. Pretending Lymphedema cannot happen to you does not work!
I got full-blown Lymphedema after lifting three heavy plastic grocery bags with my “bad” arm. And I had been to all the classes and visited a Lymphedema Therapist. That is all it took to bring it on and cause me to wear a compression sleeve and gauntlet every day for the rest of my life. Here is a previous blog post I wrote about Learning to Live with Lymphedema that gives more information: http://denise4health.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/learning-to-live-with-lymphedema/
The following 10 minute, professional video entitled, “Breast Cancer’s Dirty Little Secret” does a wonderful job giving more information about Lymphedema. It is definitely worth investing the 10 minutes to watch!