“You can control lymphedema if you begin taking necessary precautions early,” said Dr. Joseph Fanelle, Medical Director of the South Jersey Healthcare Frank and Edith Scarpa Cancer Pavilion. “Any therapies lymphedema patients undergo require a modified lifestyle for success.
“Whether the condition is mild or severe, it is more easily prevented than it is treated,” Fanelle emphasized. “The longer lymphedema persists, the harder it becomes to reduce swelling. “Women need to take proper precautions to lower their risk of developing this condition after breast cancer treatment.”
Lymphedema can affect the whole arm or only a limited portion such as the hand and wrist area or the area surrounding the elbow. The more treatment a patient receives, such as radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the greater her risk of developing lymphedema. Other risk factors for lymphedema include:
“While staying active during cancer treatment and recovery is an integral part of the healing process, be careful not to overexert yourself,” says Fanelle. “Talk to your doctor about low-impact exercises which you can engage in safely to stay active.”
“It is especially important to avoid heat because it widens the blood vessels and will cause the area to swell,” Fanelle added. The National Cancer Institute recommends that patients at risk of lymphedema avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures on the area (such as hot showers or ice packs). Refrain from using a heating pad on the affected area.
Consult your physician if you have any of the warning signs of an infection that could lead to lymphedema such as fever, redness, and swelling in the at-risk arm.
To learn more about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment options, call the SJH Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion at (856) 575-4430.
SJH Cancer Services, located in the Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion, have been been affiliated with the Fox Chase Cancer Center since 1995. SJH offers the only cancer program in Cumberland , Salem , or Gloucester counties designated as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons – Commission on Cancer.
The SJH team of board-certified physicians, registered radiation therapists and nationally-certified oncology nurses have provided state-of-the-art radiation therapy, medical oncology and cancer support services to thousands of patients in the region for more than 25 years.
SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents