Lymphedema: What Your Doctor May Not Have Told You About This Pontential Serious Side Effect of Mastectomy, Lumpectomy or Radiation Treatment
by Ulla, designer of Healing Cancer Naturally, © 2004 & 2005
Lymphedema: Definition, Cause, Symptoms
Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema develops when lymph vessels or nodes are missing, impaired, damaged or removed, for instance following a mastectomy.
Quote: “Lymphedema Following a Mastectomy: Often during a lumpectomy or mastectomy, some or all of the lymph nodes under the arm may be removed. The lymph nodes under the arm (also called the axillary lymph glands) drain the lymphatic vessels from the upper arms, the majority of the breast, the neck, and the underarm regions. The lymph nodes help to filter excess fluid, bacteria, and by-products of infections.
Whenever the normal drainage pattern in the lymph nodes is disturbed or damaged (often during surgery to remove the lymph nodes [as in lymph node dissection or lymphadenectomy performed to assess the spread of cancer], swelling of the arm may occur. Radiation and chemotherapy may also cause swelling of the arm. This swelling of the arm, caused by an abnormal collection of too much fluid, is called lymphedema.
When the lymph nodes under the arm have been removed, a woman is at higher risk of lymphedema. Lymphedema may occur immediately following surgery, or months or years later. Not every woman who has a mastectomy will experience lymphedema.
There are several types of lymphedema. The acute, temporary, and mild type of lymphedema occurs within a few days after surgery and usually lasts a short period of time. The acute and more painful type of lymphedema can occur about 4 to 6 weeks following surgery. However, the most common type of lymphedema is slow and painless and may occur 18 to 24 months after surgery.
The main symptom of lymphedema is swelling of the affected arm. The degree of swelling may vary. Some people may experience severe swelling (edema) – with the affected arm being several inches larger than the other arm. While others will experience a milder form of edema – with the affected arm being slightly larger than the other arm.
In addition to swelling of the affected arm, the following are the most common symptoms of lymphedema. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include: feeling of fullness or tightness in the affected arm, aching or pain in the affected arm, swelling in the hand (may be evidenced by rings that no longer fit), weakness in the affected arm”
You can read the full article from which the above quote was excerpted including their advice on what to do when affected by lymphedema here. It will hopefully also help you decide if it is worth this risk (I know of one woman whose life was made pure hell on earth by lymphedema, see On Avoidable Suffering, and a man in a similar situation, see Miscellaneous serious sequelae of conventional cancer treatments).
Lymphedema Incidence: How Common Is This Possible
Serious Side Effect of Conventional Cancer Therapy
Lymphedema seems to be a common complication of conventional allopathic breast (and other) cancer treatment which your doctor may not have warned you about, to wit this urgent request for help regarding lymphedema received by Healing Cancer Naturally.
“One thing I am having trouble with…is lymphedema. I had a double mastectomy and chemo before stopping at radiation and deciding to research natural treatments. I have lymphedema both in my arm and worse in my hand. I go to a physical therapist weekly for manual lymphatic drainage and have ordered a glove and sleeve from Jobst in Germany…I am doing compression bandaging at home. This has taken over my life. I have tried arnica and horse chestnut with no effect. If you know of anything that works for the lymphatic system, please send me your advice [see Lymphedema Help: Natural Treatment & Management Options]. I know there are many of us out here suffering this. Thank you.”
This request may be applicable to many women with breast cancer who choose the conventional route of mastectomy/lumpectomy or other surgery and chemotherapy. I sincerely hope it will make women research the many non-invasive “alternative” (non-mainstream) healing & therapy options available before submitting to any radical operations.
Personally, I would advise to try and heal breast cancer naturally. One of the most well-known examples of overcoming “terminal” breast cancer using a natural holistic (preponderantly nutritional/detoxification with minimal surgical intervention) approach is Dr. Day.
You will find many free pointers to and examples and testimonials of healing breast and other types of cancer naturally on healingcancernaturally.com. Please give your particular attention to Diet & Nutrition, Dr Johanna Budwig Diet & Protocol, Detox, Emotions, Energetics, Geopathic Stress, “Greatest Hits”, Galvanotherapy, Juicing & Juicers, Light Healing, Nature Heals, Dr. Hamer’s “German New Medicine”, Spirituality & Cancer Cure Testimonials.
Compare On Mammography.
Lymphedema in the leg after conventional therapy for ovarian
and/or cervical cancer (radiation therapy etc.)
In addition to lymphedema affecting women with breast cancer who choose the conventional route of mastectomy/lumpectomy or other surgery and chemotherapy, lymphedema can also occur in women with ovarian and/or cervical cancer undergoing conventional treatments, such as radiation therapy destroying inguinal nodes. In this case, lymphedema will affect the legs and feet rather than the arms.
Lymphedema & Risk of Infection
Apart from presenting a cosmetic problem (which could be considered minor) and all the risks and possible suffering outlined above (which definitely is to be considered major), lymphedema involves the additional risk of very serious infection:
“Lymphedema increases the risk of serious infections such as Cellulitis (lymphangitis), an infection that spreads freely, quickly, and uncontrollably, within the deeper tissues of the skin and becomes a life-threatening emergency when it spreads through the lymphatic or circulatory systems and can reach vital organs and other body parts (even a simple act such as shaving a swollen leg could be an invitation to infection).
Erysipelas, a painful skin infection that affects the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and the lymphatic structures located just under the skin. (This is in contrast to cellulitis which thrives within the deeper tissues.) Symptoms include an expanding area of redness of the skin…that is accompanied by pain, high fever, and chills. Erysipelas damages lymph vessels and increases the formation of fibrosis in the affected tissues. This damage further disrupts the flow of lymph. Erysipelas is one of the most common complications of lymphedema, tends to recur and there appears to be a correlation between the frequency of erysipelas infection and the stage of lymphedema. Erysipelas is a serious infection that requires prompt treatment.”
Lymphedema or “Simple” Post-Op Swelling?
An important distinction needs to be made between the true lymphedema discussed in the foregoing and the “simple” swelling in the arm after breast surgery (which is apparently usually temporary) as mentioned in this quote: “Immediately after surgery, some swelling may occur in the affected arm or breast area. This swelling is usually temporary and will gradually disappear over the next six to twelve weeks.”