Massage and Lymphedema After Breast Removal

Lymphedema is a condition that is caused by a lymphatic system that is not working properly or has been compromised by cancer treatments that adversely affect the lymphatic system.  This condition often occurs after breast removal or other lymphatic system stress in the cancer treatment process.

Symptoms of Lymphedema include massive swelling, tenderness in affected areas, heaviness of limbs, and loss of feeling in the affected areas as well, among others.  Although diagnosing lymphedema has become easier for physicians, there are a variety of methods used to make sure the patient is truly being affected by lymphedema.  

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that can be managed but not cured, and is treated in a wide variety of ways, depending upon the severity of the condition.  Because the lymphatic system is being affected by increased pressure within the patient’s body, measures must be taken to move the retained fluid manually.  This can be done using compression bandages, exercise therapy recommended by a doctor or physical therapist, or massage.

The use of massage in treating Lymphedema seems to be one of the more successful treatment methods for people dealing with this chronic problem, but must be done under the strict advisement of a qualified physician.  If not performed properly, the massage can actually exacerbate the problem, creating further lymphedema-related problems.

Lymphedema therapy that utilizes massage is known as manual lymph drainage therapists who specialize in this particular massage technique must receive a detailed history about the patient’s health before beginning therapy.  Isolating areas of treatment, the massage therapist assists the drainage and movement of fluid that is trapped in affected areas by the compromised lymphatic system.

Manual lymph drainage can be very helpful to many people who suffer from Lymphedema, but it is a very time-consuming process that requires multiple visits to both the therapist involved, as well as the patient’s physician to track progress, and modify the therapy as needed to get the most benefit out of the process for the patient.

If patients who have recently gone through breast removal surgery are beginning to notice abnormal swelling in limbs or any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is important to visit with a doctor as soon as possible.  The effects of cancer treatment can sometimes further harm an already stressed lymphatic system and collateral damage must be assessed.  As lymphedema is chronic, proactive treatment could certainly benefit the patient and prevent the condition from becoming extreme.  

Again, massage therapy for lymphedema, or manual lymph drainage, can be helpful and beneficial, but must be recommended by a physician.  If there is any clue that a patient suffers from lymphedema, they must consult with their physician as soon as possible for a detailed management plan.