When Breast Cancer Treatments Cause Truncal Lymphedema

Truncal Lymphedema
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Lymphedema, a collection of fluid that can cause swelling, is possible anywhere in the body but seems to be identified and addressed more commonly when it happens in an arm or leg.

When persistent swelling occurs in the underarm, breast, or chest, patients will often decide to wait and see what happens. Some patients describe the sensation in their underarm or chest as tightness in the skin, fullness, tenderness or having a “grapefruit” under the arm that blocks them from putting their arm down to their side. (Truncal refers to the trunk of the body or a body part.)

Although swelling after breast cancer surgery is normal and can last a few weeks without cause for concern, swelling that persists for more than a few weeks is telling a story. The persistent swelling is communicating that the lymphatic system is struggling to process the amount of fluid in the tissue.

A lymphedema therapist can provide helpful treatments such as manual lymphatic drainage (a light touch massage that stimulates the lymphatic system) or lightweight compression garments, such as a compression camisole or bra.  These conservative approaches can reduce the swelling, decreasing the chance of it becoming a chronic lymphedema.

The highly trained lymphedema team at the Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network can evaluate persistent edema anywhere in the body and provide the support the body needs to reduce it.  The goal is always to prevent swelling from becoming a chronic lymphedema that requires lifelong management.

Talk to your doctor if you think you might have lymphedema in the trunk.  Once you have a referral you can schedule a consultation at one of the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Management lymphedema therapy locations, listed here.

 

 


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