Coping with a cancer diagnosis and resulting treatment is an emotionally and physically difficult journey for the patient and their family. Following the removal of lymph nodes and radiation therapy, Secondary Lymphoedema or swelling of the arm affects about 25% of breast cancer patients. Symptoms of Secondary Lymphoedema can include:
- a feeling of fullness or heaviness
- tightness and stretching of the skin
- reduced movement of the joints
- thickening and dryness of the skin
- discomfort and/or pain
- clothing, shoes or jewellery (such as rings or watches) feeling tighter than usual
This condition can cause additional pain, discomfort and anxiety; however, it can also be successfully treated and managed by a non invasive therapy called, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).
What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a redirecting of the lymph to make it flow faster and more efficiently. A very gentle, light touch massage is used to treat and control different types of lymphoedema or swelling of an arm, leg or other part of the body due to an abnormal build-up of a fluid called lymph in the body tissues. MLD uses the lymphatic system to cleanse the body, reduce and ease swelling and strengthen the immune system by stimulating the flow of lymph.
The lymphatic system is an important part of the body’s defences against infection. It is made up of groups of lymph nodes or glands throughout the body, connected by a network of lymphatic vessels. It contains cells which fight infection, transports excess fluid from body tissues and gets rid of waste and bacteria.
How is MLD used to treat Secondary Lymphoedema?
MLD therapists treat lymphoedema using Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT); an intensive treatment that combines Manual Lymphatic Drainage, compression garments, exercise and skin care. The therapist uses a range of specialised and gentle rhythmic pumping techniques to move the excess fluid into an area with a working lymph vessel system. This stimulates the lymphatic vessels and helps move excess fluid away from the swollen area so that it can drain away normally. The MLD treatment is followed by the fitting of compression garments, to reduce limb size. The therapist will also discuss how to minimise the risk of infection by washing and moisturising the skin and the importance of regular gentle exercise to encourage efficient lymph flow.
Routes to Therapy
Appointments can be made to see our Specialist Lymphoedema Physiotherapist for Manual Lymphatic Drainage here at The Princess Grace Hospital. Your consultant or breast care nurse can refer to you this service, which is available to both inpatients and outpatients.
Please inform your consultant or a member of staff who is caring for you if you wish to use this service and make an appointment.
All appointments are to go through the Physiotherapy Administrator:
Telephone: 020 7908 3660
Fax: 020 7908 3661
Clinics are held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 30 Devonshire Street.