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Updated: Jun 9

Lymphatic Drainage for Cancer Patients
Gentle Lymphatic Drainage

If you or someone you know have undergone treatments that affect the lymphatic system, such as surgery or radiation therapy, lymphatic drainage may be helpful. Here are some examples:

1. Lymphedema Management

Lymphedema is a common, permanent side effect of cancer treatments that involve lymph node removal or damage, which results in swelling due to the accumulation of lymph fluid. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), a gentle massage technique, can help reduce this swelling by encouraging the movement of lymph fluid out of the affected area. While we can’t ‘cure’ lymphedema, it can be managed.

2. Improved Immune Function

As you know from reading our blogs, the lymphatic system is a critical part of the immune system (blood + lymph = immune system). By enhancing the movement of lymph fluid, lymphatic drainage can potentially help in maintaining a healthy immune response, which is particularly important for cancer patients.

3. Pain and Discomfort Relief

By encouraging the movement of lymphatic fluid, thereby reducing swelling, lymphatic drainage can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with their illness and even the treatments they’re receiving. The gentle technique can also improve mobility and reduce the feeling of heaviness in affected limbs and other body parts.

4. Enhanced Healing and Recovery

By improving lymph flow, lymphatic drainage can enhance the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to tissues, which may aid in the healing process and recovery post-surgery or post-radiation.

5. Reduction of Fibrosis

In some cases, cancer treatments can lead to the development of fibrosis (thickening and scarring of connective tissue). Lymphatic drainage can help reduce fibrosis and improve tissue flexibility.

Considerations and Precautions

While lymphatic drainage can be beneficial, it's important to consult with healthcare professionals before starting any new treatment. There are specific considerations and precautions to be aware of:

·         Infection Risk: If a patient has an active infection, lymphatic drainage may spread the infection and should be avoided until the infection is resolved.

·         Active Cancer: There is some concern about whether lymphatic drainage might facilitate the spread of cancer cells through the lymphatic system. However, more research is needed in this area, and decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with an oncologist.

·         Blood Clots: Patients with blood clots or deep vein thrombosis should avoid lymphatic drainage until cleared by a medical professional. Lymphatic drainage can offer several benefits for cancer patients, particularly in managing lymphedema and improving overall well-being and comfort. However, it is essential to approach this therapy under the guidance of healthcare providers to ensure it is safe and appropriate for the individual's specific medical condition. At PLT&C, we have relationships with several local practitioners who help cancer patients every day. Reach out if you need a referral!

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