Victoria LaManna, PT, DPT, CLT
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We at Beyond Basics are working hard to help spread the word on the importance of regular self-examination and early detection. For further review, please see our blog post from earlier this month.
In addition to regular self-examination, regular breast massage is shown to help increase the circulation in your breasts. Therapeutic breast massage can also lessen discomfort associated with breast cancer treatments, help relieve post-surgical symptoms, and reduce discomfort during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weaning. Breast massage also contributes to improved skin tone while promoting relaxation and balancing your energy.
With regular massage, you will help diminish benign breast cysts while helping to flush lymph nodes and stimulating your glandular system. The breasts are soft tissue and do not have muscles to help them move, therefore they require assistance for improved circulation and lymph flow.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have undergone lymph node removal, mastectomy and/or radiation, you may experience lymphedema. About 15-20% of women who have axillary lymph nodes removed during breast cancer surgery will develop lymphedema. Working closely with your medical team to manage lymphedema is key! A Certified Lymphatic Therapist (CLT) can effectively apply gentle hands-on techniques to help enhance circulation and drainage.
Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich lymphatic fluid in the tissues that contributes to swelling secondary to blockage in lymphatic flow when nodes or vessels are damaged. Individuals who have lymphedema may complain of discomfort in the affected limb, feeling of fullness in the limb, fatigue, or decreased flexibility. They may also complain of breast pain, tight-feeling skin, difficulty fitting into clothes, or tightness when wearing rings, bracelets, or watches. Venous insufficiency and obesity can contribute to lymphedema.
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) consists of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) that aids in the circulation of body fluids, drains toxins from the body, stimulates the immune system and the parasympathetic system, reduces pain and/or muscle spasms, increases range of motion, and decreases swelling. CDT can be used to treat conditions such as post-surgery and scars, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, painful periods, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. In conjunction, it is important to have an exercise program of stretching and strengthening to get the maximum benefits of CDT. After treatment, the patient may experience increased urinary frequency or increased amount of urine, increased sleep time or better quality of sleep, tension release and/or emotional release, or improved senses.
If you are seeking treatment, you need to see a licensed healthcare provider that is trained in Lymphedema Drainage Therapy. To find a specialist in your area, go to www.apta.org and click on “Find a PT”, specializing in LDT. Alternatively, you can search through the National Lymphedema Network or the Lymphatic Association of North America (LANA).