skin brushing/massage

8 weeks ago I had a mastectomy and 3 lymph nodes removed.  As I am very swollen especially on underarm and upper arm I have become concerned about the possibility of lymphodema developing.  My breast cancer nurse just says this is normal healing , but my concern is that if there is the beginning of lymphodema I want it dealt with before it gets worse.  I had thought of body brushing but don't know whether you should do it down your arm or up - or even if it would be any help at all.  I am hoping I don't get it but I am trying to avoid it if I can - any advice please?

15 Replies

  • Check out skin brushing on YouTube. Always up the limb - very light (like stroking a cat), and do not brush so hard that you redden the skin.

    Your BCN is correct in that 8 weeks post op, your body will still be going through the healing process, and the swelling may be oedema rather than lymphoedema. Can you get to an MLD practitioner for advice about self-care?

  • thanks for your reply, when I have mentioned my concerns about possibility of developing lymphoedema I have just been told stock answer of not having injections, blood pressure etc.  I get the feeling  that they are not taking my fears seriously as they just say the swelling is normal.  At this stage I would have thought the swelling would be getting less but every morning when I wake I am very swollen and I do not sleep on the affected side.  I do appreciate it is still early days but what I am trying to do is know where to go if I do have any issues.  The BCN can refer for counselling, social activities and help groups but don't appear to have access to lymphoedema services.    

  • Hi pammyg 

    I don't know where in the uk you are and lymphoedema services can be hit and miss in various areas but after my Lymphodenectomy and surgery for a gynaecological cancer but before the radiotherapy my specialist nurse referred me to our lymphoedema service (I did push for this though) and through this I 'got into the system' and as my lymphoedema nurse said "In an ideal world this is how it should be"  I have since been prescribed compression hosiery,given skin care advice etc,etc and because mine is mild I have no problems. 

    It may be worth googling (other search engines available!) lymphoedema services in your area and see what pops up and then ask your BCN to refer you,after all prevention is better than cure and there is no cure(at the moment)for lymphoedema. 

  • Hi PammyG,

    My advice would be to be kind to yourself just now and don't worry too much about the possibility of Lymphoedema so close to the shock of your diagnosis and surgery.

    I have severe Lymphoedema complicated by Lipoedema and I know how frightening the thought of it can be.

    I have been doing some advocacy work for BC Patients in hospitals and fear your words are true. In my experience some BC teams are totally blasé  about " a little bit of Lymphoedma " which is hard to deal with on a personal level.

    I suggest you have a look at the LSN's website but I expect you have done that already.

    I wish you all the best.

  • thanks for your reply,  As I am also a carer I have to try and keep as well as possible so any tips and advice will really help me to avoid or manage,if it raises its ugly head! I do feel my fears were dismissed and the only services seemed to be social and counselling type things. 

  • For me I was always going to get Lymphoedema due to my genetic make- up. I think all you can do is take the precautions we are all told about but there should be help for you as a Carer particularly if that role involves lifting ? 

  • They may well be taking you seriously but there's probably not much you can do. I had a mastectomy at 38 and have developed Lymphodema as a consequence. It was very hard to deal with at the time but like everything else you adjust. basically just start at the top of your arm and stroke towards your heart. Gradually working your way down. Best thing for Lymphodema is keeping weight off and keeping active. I do agree that it's fairly soon for Lymphodema to develop and is probably swelling which will disappear. 

  • Hi, Understand your concerns. I have lymphoedema due to breast Cancer. I am going to be blunt. If you are going to get lymphoedema there is nothing you can do to halt it. But lots of things to do to when and if you develop it. 

  • Why is it that when patients try to get informed help, the NHS just brushes us off.  When I wanted serious answers when, like you, I wanted to act sensibly - all I was offered was counselling.  Nothing against that in the RIGHT context - but useless for the majority of serious concerns we have/

  • always upwards towards the heart

  • Hopefully you are still doing the exercises you were given post-op. I stopped doing them a few months afterwards when all my stiffness had gone. That is when I started with lymphoedema and regret not carrying on with the exercises. Obviously i do not know if that is the reason but I seem to think that it is. I only have a mild condition but wear a compression sleeve and have a great lymphoedema nurse who I can contact if I need her and have regular appointments for her to check the swelling and how I am feeling. I guess you cannot not much more to prevent it happening but I should not worry about it happening. Just enjoy the fact that it is not there at the moment and, certainly not everyone gets it. Your breast cancer nurse should have the experience to know what she is talking about. Enjoy the fact that your cancer has been dealt with. Good luck x

  • Hi pammyg, If your BCN has suggested arm exercises to recover good movement keep practising them. You can use your hand to gently smooth over arm from fingers to shoulder and then towards heart. I had 'cording' in left arm after mastectomy and node removal which is also lymph system hiccup, was treated with kinesio taping, which worked. Lymphoedema manifested about 3 months later as an 'achey' lower arm. Not always gross swelling. I wear a class I compression sleeve, swim twice a week, practise yoga, all helps. Was taught simple lymphatic drainage and do every night while listening to favourite tracks on mp3 player. Sometimes I doze off in the middle but it doesn't seem to matter! The LSN has good DVD material showing a method of SLD.

  • Hi Pammyg, I completely agree with all the advice thats been given to you, I had lumpectomies in October 2013, all nodes in right arm were taken, I kept doing my exercises even through radiotherapy, towards the end of 2014 I had dry flaky skin on my right breast, went to GP, cream cleared it up but it returned, on my third GP visit I was referred to my Breast Care Centre for a biopsy, as soon as my Consultant saw my skin he said I've got Lymphodema, the biopsy showed I have excema, but nothing about Lymphodema, I chased it up through my BCN who referred me on to the clinic, after examination I was told I have Lymphodema in both breasts, so please be aware as time goes on and you, hopefully, continue to heal well, that Lymphodema may manifest itself in an unusual way, I wish you a continued good recovery, try not to worry about it x

  • You brush up from fingers and around towards breat .it really great be sure to get natural bristle brush and do it lightly.Google it lots of good tips on dry brushing look up a diagram of you lymphatic system it helped me to see where the main areas are snd the 2 drain pools are.hope this helps.

  • Does anyone know how to get rid of swollen foot and ankle. .is the soreness usual .I wear compression stocking and do my exert and rebound but it still swollen. Any help appreciated

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