Sentinel node biopsy(SN) can and should replace axillary node dissection wherever possible. This site contains a summary of a talk by Dr. Barbara Weber about the value of SNB.
The conclusion of an article which took an overview of this technique is also included. It was demonstrated that SNB is as good as axillary node dissection in determining lymph node and disease status. SNB may not cause lymphedema, but we do not know for sure yet. It takes time for reports to drift in from doctors and patients. Radiation to the axilla(underarm) can cause lymphedema too.
Amazingly the success of axillary node dissection has never really been looked at or discussed. It is ONLY for staging, not treatment. About 60% of us NEVER have involved lymph nodes but doctors have continued to use dissection on (almost) all of us.
Check out the recent study 2/00 under the SNB section.
Learn how to do a self-massage for prevention. It involves gently rubbing the sides of your neck toward the heart. At the same time, rubbing the unaffected underarm. This stimulates the lymph system. Then using gentle stokes always toward the heart (upward), massage your upper arm from elbow to shoulder, on the affected side. Do this ten times on each of the four sides; top, bottom, left side and right. Then stroke the arm from wrist to elbow 10x4. Then work your hand gently upward. This may help prevent trouble. At the first sign of swelling or a feeling of heaviness, slow liquid moving, hot or cold tingles, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR about a prescription/referral for treatment. Any amount of swelling can be treated and hopefully reduced. Don't wait until it "gets worse" even if your doctor suggests that.
It is possible to develop lymphedema any time after surgery/radiation. There is NO time limit. Even a small swelling can be treated by a trained massage therapist using MLD therapy. MLD is actually part of a total program called Congestive Decongestive Physiotherapy. There may be local massage therapists near you who are trained in this technique. Regular massage IS NOT effective against lympedema.
Contact the National Lymphedema Network (see link)for more information or to find a provider. You will need a prescription from your doctor.
These are usually made to measure* and are useful in holding your arm to its present level (or maintaining level achieved after MDL). It is recommended if you are traveling by airplane. It is like support hose for your arm. Insurance companies sometimes pay for this. It is not a guarantee, but you will need a prescription from your doctor. Check with them. The sleeves are sometimes under the codes for "durable medical equipment" or "pneumatic appliances" even though they are neither. Sleeves tend to wear out every 4-6 months if worn daily. Make sure you wash it at least once a week if your wear it every day.
*Surgical Supply Houses are good sources for sleeves. Ask if they have someone on staff who will measure for sleeves. A small number of cancer centers are currently offering a lymphedema clinic as part of their offerings. We could ask our local hospital to consider this idea.
Be careful of scratches, bug bites, burns etc. Any injury on the affected arm can cause swelling. If any area turns red or looks inflamed or infected, SEE YOUR DOCTOR ASAP.
DO NOT let doctors, nurses or anyone else draw blood or put a blood pressure cuff on your affected arm. Even if you do not have lymphedema, that can cause it. You must be careful of this FOREVER.
I carry tea tree oil, a natural antibiotic and use it on any cut, burn etc. Then I put a bandaid on (Yes I carry this with me all the time since I already have lymphedema).
Crutches: Be careful if you need to use crutches since the pressure under the arm/armpit is very dangerous to people without lymph nodes.
|Remember we are NOT Doctors and have NO medical training.|
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