October 7, 2013 9:37 am

Ask the Pros~ Dr. Kris Gast

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Q:  Is there a way to prevent lymphedema in breast cancer patients?

A: Lymph is a fluid that flows through a low pressure system of attached lymph nodes.  Lymphedema is a swelling in a part of the body having a blockage of this lymph flow.   Breast cancer patients are particularly prone to lymphedema, typically occurring in the arm or the breast itself.  Once lymphedema develops, stabilizing it is extremely difficult. A recent study shows that the use of manual lymphatic drainage performed within days after surgery, by a certified massage therapist, can prevent lymphedema in breast cancer patients.  At Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, we are proud to have a certified massage therapist trained in manual lymphatic drainage on staff. If you are experiencing lymphedema, please call 479-648-1800 to set up an appointment with our therapist.


Q: Is there treatment for arm swelling after breast cancer treatment?

A: If arm swelling, known as lymphedema, develops, certified massage therapists who are specifically trained in lymphedema management may help you.  Using special massage techniques to move the fluid through the body to reduce swelling, these specially trained massage therapists also keep track of the swelling with the use of measurements and wraps.  Additionally, these therapists can use this technique on other parts of the body, such as the legs, back, and neck.


Q: Can having breast implants affect my risk of getting breast cancer? If I get breast cancer, can the implants impact my survival?

A: Cosmetic surgery for breast implants has seen a 227% increase since 1997.  Last year in the US alone over 330,000 implant surgeries were performed, with one million performed worldwide. Studies have shown that women who have breast implants are at no greater risk of developing breast cancer.  However, an extensive review of these studies by a Canadian team of researchers has shown that women with implants are more likely to have a later stage of cancer at diagnosis.  Additionally, the researchers found a decrease in survival in women with implants.  With the number of breast implant surgeries increasing every year, additional studies will be on going.

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