After-care treatment reduces lymphedema after breast cancer

One out of the eight women has breast cancer and in more and more cases the patients are younger women, under 40 years old. The Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding) emphasizes the importance of proper health care following surgery.

More attention is being given to this issue but still the lymphedema problem remains underestimated. An integrated after-care treatment program may prevent lymphedema developing and/or reduce its worsening.

The lymph nodes under the arm are often removed during breast surgery or they can get damaged during the radiotherapy. Due to this, the balance between making and drainage of lymph fluid can be altered and as a result lymphoedema may develop. Lymphoedema is a swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues. It severely affects proper functioning of arm/shoulder and intense long-term after treatment is needed.

Lymphedema makes the recovery after cancer treatment unnecessarily difficult.
In the vast majority of cases lymphedema can be prevented by offering women suffering from breast cancer complementary after-care treatment. Even if lymphedema is already developed its effects can be significantly reduced. The method invented by Dr. Julita Broda from Barita, starts immediately on the day of getting cancer diagnosis. Her step-by-step approach focuses on helping the patient recognize the signals given by the body and exercise consciously to make the recovery faster and to prevent the development of lymphedema. It comprises of a mixture of exercise and relaxation. This means specific exercises targeted at strengthening the group of muscles in the arm and surrounding the area of surgery. During relaxation, Yoga and chi-ball exercises are used in conjunction with the Barita anti-lymphedema pillow (anti-inflammatory triangle).

"It is important to prevent lymphedema from developing or to reduce its side-effects as effectively as possible" says Julita Broda. "Naturally, in the first place for the patient herself because the recovery process after the breast cancer treatment is very exhausting even without the additional health problems. But there is also a social importance to it. When lymphedema is developed the complex intense treatment program follows, inclusive the therapy sessions. Besides, lymphedema strongly diminishes the woman’s activity on the job market and in the family. Therefore, apart from the personal aspects of this problem, there are also negative consequences adding costs to the whole society."

Dr. Julita Broda graduated from University of Physical Education in Poland, faculty physical education and is a specialist in Health Promotion. She holds a PhD title at University of Physical Education. In addition to being an experienced practitioner she developed a specific interest the subject of lymphedema in 2010 after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

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