Dr. Melissa is a Naturopathic Physician and Vodder trained Certified Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, certified in treating all aspects of lymphedema. She holds a Masters in Holistic Nutrition and a Doctorate of Naturopathy. Learn more about her, the services she provides and products she recommends for better health at naturalhealthresources.com.
Most of the October Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s focus is on breast cancer screenings and detection awareness, all extremely important and value points of enlightenment. While early detection and screening are popular in the world of breast cancer awareness, post-cancer prevention is hardly ever discussed with those subjected to this life-changing diagnosis.
One of the most common questions from my patients who have managed or have survived breast cancer is - how do we prevent both a recurrence and lymphedema?
The latter is a looming, dreadful risk that very few cancer docs and surgeons discuss in full detail with their patients. Essentially, if you had the cancer surgically extracted, chemically blasted and radiated to the nth degree the presumption is you should be grateful you are alive and whatever post-cancer risks are what they are. What you aren’t told is that you are officially in the LATENT stage of Lymphedema - a non-stage, but higher risk category of this common post cancer disease.
So, let us discuss a few key preventative options that are extremely powerful at minimizing post-cancer lymphedema risks, as well as targeting healthy tissue rejuvenation in the post-apocalyptic remaking breast tissue.
There are two key areas of daily maintenance that all individuals diagnosed with breast cancer need to focus on making a priority:
- Mild Grade Compression Wear
- Gentle Therapeutic Breast Lymphatic Massage
Let’s start off with the power of wearing compression sleeves. Compression as a lymphatic preventative measure is an amazing way to ensure that you are supporting your post-op lymphatic system. The removal of lymph nodes and surgical removal of breast tissue includes the removal of very important lymphatic structures put you at a greater risk for developing life altering lymphedema. If your cancer treatment also involved radiation, the remaining lymphatic tissue is further compromised and impaired. The combination of surgery and radiation requires greater emphasis on preventive lymphatic compression therapy.
For many breast cancer patients, lymphedema is a “ticking time bomb.” And, the current modern-day medical approach is to wait until the bomb goes off before recommending the implementation of management protocols; i.e. compression therapy, lymphatic drainage therapy and pneumatic compression devices (lymphedema pumps).
Compression, as a preventative tool, should always be worn when traveling, exercising, during stressful times and when you are sick. These are four key ways to utilize compression therapy to truly support and offset the risks that can tip the scales on your lymphatic system’s management of your typical lymph fluid volume.
Also, if you haven’t been told to avoid giving blood draws or having blood pressure cuff readings on the arm - avoid them and be diligent about educating your medical providers about the risks you want to avoid.
I always recommend to my patients the Juzo Soft Print Series. These are super fun and give you the support your lymphatics need. The prints are fun to play with and experiment with matching outfits and seasons.
Yes, it’s important to be aware of breast cancer risks and early detection, but it’s equally important to know the risks of developing lymphedema and how compression can help the “ticking time bomb” from fully exploding. Prevention of lymphedema is a crucial element of your post-cancer care treatment plans and often it will require that you take the reins of your healthcare by seeking out specialists, as well as adding daily self-care to the mix.