FROM OUR EXPERTS
Q. I definitely want to avoid lymphedema. Is there anything I can do to ward it off, or is lymphedema totally random? A. The very best thing you can do to help prevent lymphedema is to make sure you get full range of motion back in your arm, whether after surgery or radiation. Favoring the arm on your affected side, hunching your shoulder protectively, being too stiff to stretch your arm up over your head and around towards your back–these are all things that will make it easier for lymphedema to gain a foothold. I have a friend who’s a physical therapist specializing in lymphedema treatment. In fact, we became close as she gave me daily massages to relieve my own swollen arm. (Just as getting a tummy tuck is the silver lining of a tram flap reconstruction, a daily massage is the big plus of having lymphedema!) This friend says that women who’ve had surgery, particularly a mastectomy with lymph node removal (even if just a single node) need physical thera...
One main lymph node area (the armpit, or "axilla") and two secondary lymph node areas (the internal mammary and supraclavicular regions) filter the lymph fluid draining away from the breast area.
Since the job of the lymph nodes is to filter out "bad guys" like cancer cells, this is a logical place to look for breast cancer cells that have escaped the original tumor and are trying to go elsewhere in the body. Cancer cells may also leave the breast through the bloodstream and bypass the lymph nodes. However, the presence ("node-positive") or absence ("node-negative") of cancer in the lymph nodes is one of the most important signposts your doctor will use to determine the best treatment for you.
“The bottom line is that if your lymph nodes are involved, it tells your doctors a lot about the nature of your cancer. It means that this is a tumor with a potential nasty streak and a higher risk of spreading to other parts of your body. Knowing the bottom line can help guid...
Biopsy - lymph nodes; Open lymph node biopsy; Fine needle aspiration biopsy; Sentinel lymph node biopsy
Carlson RW, Allred DC, Anderson BO, Burstein HJ, Carter WB, Edge SB, et al. Breast cancer. Clinical practice guidelines in oncology. J Natl Compr Canc Netw . 2009;7:122-192.
Clinical practice guideline for melanoma: NCCN Medical Practice Guidelines and Oncology; V.2.2010. Available online.
You should know
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