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Women treated for breast cancer who have had lymph nodes removed may be at risk for a particular kind of arm swelling, known as lymphedema. Some patients get symptoms right away, while others may never experience lymphedema or may begin showing signs of the condition many years later.
What is Lymphedema?
When it is working effectively, the lymphatic system serves to clean, filter and remove excess fluid, proteins, bacteria and waste products from the body. It also produces lymphocytes, which are important in fighting infection.
During surgery for breast cancer, the surgeon will often remove some of the lymph nodes from under the arm area to see how far the cancer has spread. The removal of these lymph pathways will change the way the lymph fluid flows within that side of the upper body, making it more difficult for fluid in the arm to circulate to other parts of the body. If the remaining lymph vessels cannot remove enough fluid and waste products, then it may build up causing swelling or lymphedema.
What can be done to Treat Lymphedema?
Tammee Stebbins, OTR/L, CLT-LANA, is Katzmann Breast Center’s lymphedema specialist. She offers a wide range of therapies for women suffering from this uncomfortable, often debilitating condition. Tammee also provides education about lymphedema, comprehensive manual Vodder massage techniques, specialized bandaging and exercise techniques.
In addition, Katzmann offers other types of treatment for extremity range of motion deficits, extremity weakness, pain control, and scar adhesion relief.
Treatment is also available for other diagnosis relating to Lymphedema especially in the area of gynecological issues.
To Learn More
Tammee instructs classes at the YMCA Healthy Living Center™ on the Mercy Wellness Campus in Clive, including a weekly Aquatic Lymphedema Exercise Class, a gentle aerobic Lebed Healthy Steps Exercise Class and she offers a monthly Lymphedema Support Group.