Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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How Do I Deal With the Complications of Lymphedema?

Friday, 11 Jun 2010 04:56 PM

Question: I have lymphedema, a side-effect from having had breast cancer with lymph node involvement, and I often experience cellulitis, a complication of lymphedema when there is a port of entry for infection. What should I do to help myself? Should I continue with a normal exercise program, and should I avoid repetitive lifting?
Dr. Hibberd's Answer:
Lymphedema is a condition with swelling (edema) that occurs when lymph (a body fluid that has its own drainage system through filtering lymph nodes that eventually drains into larger ducts in our chest area) accumulates due to drainage obstruction. When lymph nodes are removed, especially after radical breast surgery and lymph node dissection, there is an obstruction to lymphatic drainage that we have very poor treatment for. Using muscles is actually beneficial to venous and lymphatic drainage, but avoid situations where you notice the swelling gets worse.
Seek the advice of a good therapist to instruct you in techniques that will facilitate lymphatic drainage. You will be amazed at the improvement that simple therapy can achieve. The risk of cellulitis is increased when lymphedema is poorly treated. Hopefully, stem-cell research will offer us some effective treatments for lymphatic stasis. I’m amazed that this entire circulatory system within our body has received such little attention, and it is time to change this.

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