The first Breast Cancer Awareness Month took place in October 1985 and was founded by the American Cancer Society and pharmaceutical companies. The purpose of the campaign was to increase awareness and educate about screening and raise money for more research. Meanwhile, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become a global campaign marked by a pink ribbon.
Lymphoedema after Breast Cancer
Treating breast cancer may result in lymphoedema for several reasons. Lymph nodes and vessels are sometimes removed to slow or stop the spread of cancer, resulting in lymphoedema. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also impair or destroy the lymphatic system. Any infection that interferes with the flow of lymph can cause swelling, and a tumor itself can result in lymphoedema if it’s blocking part of the lymphatic system.3
Lymphoedema may appear right after surgery or chemotherapy but can also manifest months or years later. It is important to pay attention to early signs and symptoms of lymphoedema, such as swelling or a feeling of heaviness, aching, or discomfort. The earlier you recognize the symptoms of lymphoedema, the better it is to treat. You can read more about the signs and symptoms of lymphoedema here.
Reducing your Risk
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema. Researchers found out that obesity and weight gain after surgery increase the risk of developing lymphoedema.4 Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is not only important for treating lymphoedema but also for preventing it. The same refers to gentle exercise supervised by a certified lymphoedema specialist. Click here for more information about how to reduce your risk for lymphedema.
3 Fu MR. Breast cancer-related lymphedema: Symptoms, diagnosis, risk reduction, and management. World J Clin Oncol. 2014 Aug 10;5(3):241-7. doi:10.5306/wjco.v5.i3.241.
4 Mehrara BJ, Greene AK. Lymphedema and obesity: is there a link? Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014 Jul;134(1):154e-160e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000000268.
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Claudia Lymphoedema patient