Lymphedema and alternative medicine methods

Lymphedema and alternative medicine methods


Lymphedema (LE) is one of major problem after surgical treatment of patients with cancer. More than one in five women with breast cancer will develop breast cancer-related lymphedema. LE is an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues on the affected side of the body following breast and other cancer treatment as a result of surgical procedures and/or radiation therapy. Cancer surgery can cause lymphedema through several mechanisms: surgical removal of lymphatic structures such as nodes and vessels can impair lymph carrying capacity. Surgical scarring can diminish lymph transport by occlusion of lymph vessels and/or loss of elasticity in lymph vessels. Surgical removal or damage of muscle tissue can diminish the muscle’s compressive force on the lymph vessels and impair the “muscle pump”. Radiation therapy can also cause LE through several mechanisms including direct tissue damage, node damage, and/or scarring and fibrosis, all reducing lymph carrying capacity..

Although recent changes in diagnosis and treatment of cancer (such as sentinel node biopsy, changes in radiation therapy, and less invasive surgical techniques due to earlier diagnosis) have reduced the risk of LE. LE remains a major problem for women with breast cancer. Prospective incidence rates of LE range between 20% to 40% for the first three years following breast cancer surgery. Incidence rates vary according to the type of breast cancer treatment received, with women who receive both axillary radiation and axillary lymph node resection showing the highest incidence. Risk factors for LE include higher stage of cancer, higher number of lymph nodes removed, obesity, poorer performance status, receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy and certain genes. Exercise such as strength training has been associated with lower risk of LE.

LE is often not diagnosed until the patient, herself, notices subtle signs of swelling such as the inability to wear rings or watches, or has symptoms such as discomfort, heaviness or tightness in the limb or region. In some cases the skin may appear shiny, veins may be less visible, and tissue may feel firmer than normal.

However, visual observation remains the most practical assessment of truncal lymphedema: for example, asymmetry, bra strap and seam indentations, orange peel phenomenon, changes in skin color, palpation of tissue texture and skin folds between affected and non-affected side.

However, early detection and treatment of LE can both reduce lymphatic swelling and maintain that reduction over time.. Thus, altering the progression of this potentially disabling condition through effective early intervention is important. The early intervention are: positioning are, decongestive therapy, decongestive physical therapy, nutrition and exercises. The effect of treatment is accepted from medical associations worldwide. The crucial problem is still to follow the effect of complexity treatment. This education is one guide how we can manage this problem from aspect of alternative medicine methods.