Healthy Living: Lymphedema
There are many benefits to using radiation and surgery to treat cancer, but for some people it comes at a cost. Marcie Fraser reports.
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At 34 years old, Keirsa Chappell was in her prime as a well conditioned tri-athlete, and then her world was rocked, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
"I was very healthy. I took care of myself. It was like the rug was pulled out from me," said Chappell.
After a double mastectomy, the removal of several lymph nodes and radiation, she developed lymphedema. The stages of lymphedema vary from a slight swelling to painful elephantiasis. Left untreated, it will not get any better.
"When people have lymphedema they need to be treated differently than a regular PT patient, we can't put hot pack on the patients," said Kathryn Taylor Anilowski, a certified lymphedema therapist.
Kathryn Taylor Anilowski is a certified lymphedema therapist and knows how to work on the lymph system without causing further damage using CDT, complete decongestive therapy.
"A very light hands on technique by stretching the skin it in a certain way we can stimulate the lymphatic system to activate it, get stronger and get rid of the proteins and once the proteins flow, the water flows with it," said Anilowski.
Proper skin care as well as compression sleeves are essential parts of therapy.
"Not every day when you do strenuous activity, gardening or in the sun or when flying on a plane," said Anilowski.
Reduce the risk of swelling by avoiding blood work or blood pressure being taken in the arm that is affected.
"We ask people not to wear bracelets or watches that are too tight. No heat on that quadrant, no deep massage,” said Anilowski.
Keirsa's symptoms are now gone, and she is back to being active and she is cancer-free.