Lymphedema poses added health risk for cancer survivors - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Lymphedema poses added health risk for cancer survivors

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Breast cancer can be a tough diagnosis to work through, and even when the cancer is gone the fight isn't always over.

Last summer, Janetta Elmore had a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

After months of chemo and radiation, she thought the complications were over but noticed her right arm was beginning to swell.

Elmore suddenly found herself dealing with a condition called lymphedema.

During treatment for some cancers, lymph nodes are removed from the body, preventing lymph fluid from properly draining.

"It causes swelling, can lead to pain and it can compress nerves and cause pain or numbness. Over time, it will rob the skin of nutrition," said certified lymphedema therapist Aide Mackenzie.

Mackenize, who works with patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is also dealing with lymphedema after she, too, had breast cancer.

She said the condition can come on at any time.

"Sometimes people say their limbs feel heavy," Mackenzie said. "Feeling pressure or heaviness can be a trigger to get to your doctor."

While there is no cure, the symptoms of lymphedema can be treated by wearing a compression sleeve over the affected skin.

And patients can also undergo what is called "complete decongestive therapy," which looks very similar to a massage.

Elmore said that is making a huge difference in her life. For now, she visits Vanderbilt for treatment twice a week.

She is even learning about the massage technique, so if she can't make it in, she can do it on her own.

For more information about lymphedema, visit: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lymphedema/DS00609.

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