Breast conservation therapy (lumpectomy) combined with radiation has become a preferred option over mastectomies for many individuals diagnosed with breast cancer. The physical and emotional benefits of these procedures are enormous.
Many women have only short-term discomfort and tissue changes in the involved breast after surgery and radiation. Unfortunately, research indicates that 20-48% of patients who have had a lumpectomy experience breast lymphedema. Diagnosis can be tricky, but symptoms include swelling, redness, skin thickening, hardening of the breast tissue and tenderness to touch.
While the cause is not completely understood, several factors contribute to breast lymphedema. They include lymphatic obstruction, radiation induced changes in the small blood vessels and cells, and scar tissue from either surgery or radiation. Postoperative complications such as hematomas (a localized collection of blood) and seromas (a build up of clear body fluids where tissue was removed in surgery) can make changes more severe. Some authors report a higher incidence of tissue fibrosis following accelerated partial-breast irradiation treatment. Women who have moderate to severe loss of shoulder and rib cage range of motion may also be more likely to experience drainage problems that lead to tissue edema.
How is Breast Lymphedema treated at ALTA?
Fortunately, there are many treatment options to help decrease the tissue changes and improve circulation and lymph drainage of the breast after a lumpectomy. At ALTA some of the most effective techniques are manual lymph drainage, breast compression syndrome releases, myofascial release, articular releases of the shoulder girdle, rib cage and thoracic spine, Kinesiotaping and Body Talk.
When should you seek our help?
Early postoperative intervention helps decrease the likelihood of developing symptoms. Treatment should begin 2-3 weeks post-op for optimal results. Symptoms such as changes in tissue color, hardness or tenderness can occur several months to years after surgery, so if you are experiencing problems, call us. Patients notice improvement within the first 3 treatments.
Who to see:
Schedule with Mary, Jane or Lori for your evaluation and initial treatment. When indicated, they will refer you to other gifted ALTA therapists so that all your treatment needs, such as traditional joint and soft tissue releases and exercise progression can be incorporated in your treatment.