The removal of breast due to cancer often leads to marked oedema in the arm due to the involvement of lymph nodes. Left to itself it effect the overall health of the patient apart from spoiling the musculature and skin of the affected arm.
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What is Post Mastectomy Lymphoedema(P.M.L.)?
Post Mastectomy Lymphoedema
Lymphoedema following a surgery for the removal of breast is called Post Mastectomy Lymphoedema (PML)
Lymphoedema is the swelling of a part of the body due to accumulation of Lymph. Lymph is a clear fluid which contains protein water and certain other substances made in the tissues.
Lymphatic System is a part of circulatory system which drains Lymph. It consists of Lymphatic Channels and Lymph Nodes.
The surgery for the removal of Breasts often includes the removal of Lymph Nodes and a lot of tissue. Radiotherapy can also destroy Lymph Nodes blocking them with fibrous tissue.
Once the Lymphatics are damaged Lymphoedema may occur at any time. Sometimes it starts at once and lasts a lifetime, sometimes it appears years after the even.
Once the lymphatics are damaged a very trivial thing may set it off e.g. a bee sting, sun burn, carrying heavy weights or even an aircraft flight.
What causes PML?
What are the symptoms?
Swelling and Heaviness in the effected arm (i.e. the arm corresponding to the removed breast) are clear cut symptoms.
What is the treatment?
Prevention is the best. The best way to prevent a PML is to start using a Custom-Made Compression Garment immediately on noticing a change in the affected limb.
It is treated with a combination of physiotherapy, drugs and Compression Garments.
In extreme cases the patient may also require the application of compression with the help of Compression Pumps but it must be followed by a regular usage of Compression Garments.
If left untreated?
If PML is left untreated it keeps worsening.
If it increases rapidly it can cause great pain because the tissues are being torn apart.
Over a period of time it can decrease the mobility of joints and make them painful and spoil the texture of the skin and make it stony.
It can cause a general worsening of the patient's life and health and cause embarrassment and can also lead to depression.