BREAST CANCER, MASTECTOMY, & RECONSTRUCTION
As traumatic and life changing as dealing with Breast Cancer may be, the added issues of mastectomy and complicated breast reconstruction only makes matters worse. Women who have had Breast Cancer and undergo a mastectomy will most likely have a breast reconstruction. In cases where woman require radiation treatment as part of their course of cancer management, the breast reconstruction may be affected. Side effects of radiation treatment, specific to the skin and breast implant prosthesis may include:
- Skin hardness, scarring, and tightening.
- Limited Range Of Motion (ROM) of the arm on the side(s) that received radiation.
- Hardening of the breast implant prosthesis due to Capsular Contracture.
- Misshapen or oddly positioned breast appearance.
- Pain to breast, chest, and/or shoulder region.
Other issues related to mastectomy include sensitivity of the surgical incision due to changes in blood supply after a mastectomy and reconstruction. Blood supply to the breast that previously came from the front of the original breast tissue must now rely on blood supply from the back of the new reconstructed breast. This means that extra care must be taken to not aggravate the healing incision and extra time will be needed to become strong.
LYMPHEDEMA –What is it?
Women who have had Lymph nodes removed should also be aware that they are now at risk for a condition called Lymphedema This is where the arm(s) will begin to swell with fluid and look larger. This is due to the fact that the lymph nodes, which have been removed, can now no longer pump or move fluid out away from the arm. This condition is one to be aware of for life as it can occur at any time after lymph node removal. It is important to watch for swelling in the arm and alert your doctor should it begin.
HOW DO YOU TREAT LYMPHEDEMA?
Lymphedema can be managed effectively by a coordinated effort between your doctor and a Certified Lymphedema therapist. Be advised that Lymphedema therapists must be certified through an accredited program, as not all medical professionals, such as aestheticians, massage therapists, Physical or Occupational therapists have this advanced certification. Always ask to for credentials or documentation.
First, you must get a prescription from your doctor for this treatment. You will then meet with the Lymphedema therapist who will take a comprehensive medical history, ask you pertinent questions, perform a comprehensive evaluation including measurements of the affected area, then prescribe a Treatment Plan of Care. This Plan of Care normally involves Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which consists of:
- Gentle lymphatic drainage massages called Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD).
- Temporary compression bandages and garments to help remove excess fluid.
- Skin care.
- Exercises to help remove excess fluid and swelling.
- Fitment for final compression garment after swelling resolved.
- Education on condition and prevention of future problems.