Permanent compression garment necessary?


Question from Artistry: I'm finishing chemo, about to have surgery. I have mild-moderate lymphedema as a result of sentinel biopsy. I've not started physical therapy, but at my consultation I was told I'd need to wear a garment on my arm for the rest of my life! Is this always the case? With treatment won't it ever improve to the point of not having to wear a special garment? Will mastectomy and radiation worsen it?
Answers - Linda Miller If you're experiencing lymphedema at/or around the time of chemotherapy, often times the edema is chemotherapy related and might be resulting from the use of steroids in the chemotherapy regiment. Often, after chemotherapy ends and with proper addressing of the edema at the time that it's occurring, much of the edema resolves. Often, many of these early onset edemas can be managed aggressively initially with exercise, manual lymph drainage and compression. However, many of these conditions do not warrant long-term daily use of compression garments. Radiation could worsen the edema temporarily during treatment, but again much of the worsening of the edema may resolve the further out you are from your radiation treatment. Edemas that occur during the time of treatment for breast cancer are often short-term conditions.
Kristin Brill, M.D., F.A.C.S. If you are receiving chemotherapy prior to surgery and have had a sentinel node biopsy, some edema may be related to the initial procedure and just as Linda has said may be related to the fluid and electrolyte fluctuation we see with chemotherapy. This may indicate a more short-term edema issue and not necessarily long-term.
Linda Miller The important part here is that wearing a compression garment forever is not inevitable.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2008, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called After Surgery: Short-term and Long-term Effects. Kristin Brill, M.D., F.A.C.S. and Linda Miller, P.T. answered your questions about short-term and long-term side effects of breast surgery, and what you can do about them.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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