The lymph system is one of the body’s most essential tools for helping us maintain good health. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body and contain a fluid that circulates to remove bacteria and waste. Once collected, the fluid is then carried away by cells that are specifically designed to fight infection, and the harmful products are flushed out of our system.
Lymphedema is a disruption of that system that takes place when the lymph nodes are overwhelmed. Lymph fluid collects in areas where the lymph nodes should be handling it, and the result is a painful buildup of excess fluid. Lymphedema is often a complication or after effect of breast cancer surgery. Surgeons are often required to remove a few of the lymph nodes from under the arm during either biopsy, lumpectomy or mastectomy, or they may be damaged during the operation. The lymph nodes can also be impacted by radiation therapy, which can damage the vessels that connect the nodes. Though post-operative lymphedema is much less common than it once was, it still afflicts many women.
Post-operative lymphedema can be mild and have only subtle symptoms, or it may be extremely uncomfortable and cause a loss of the use of your arm. Symptoms include swelling all the way to the fingers, a feeling of tightness in your arm, restricted range of motion, and discomfort. In more serious cases or cases that are left untreated, infection may set in or the skin may become thickened and hardened. Unfortunately, once post-operative lymphedema has set in, there is no cure for the condition, though there are a number of actions that can be taken to help cope with the disease.
Among the most important things that you can do if you’ve been diagnosed with post-operative lymphedema is to learn as much as possible about the condition. The better educated you are, the more effectively you will be able to take care of yourself. Minimizing the risk of injury or infection to your limb is crucial in preventing trouble, and the healthier you are the less likely it is that your lymph system will be stressed. Eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep is crucial, and so is getting exercise, though it is important that you work with a therapist or your physician in order to identify activities that will not exacerbate your condition.
One of the biggest frustrations expressed by breast cancer survivors who have been diagnosed with post-operative lymphedema is the sense that they can never escape being sick, or the expenses that are part and parcel of cancer treatment. Most patients who are diagnosed with post-operative lymphedema are still struggling to pay the medical bills from their cancer treatment, and needing additional medical care for their condition adds insult to injury.
There are a number of support groups available where you can find people who are going through the same thing that you are, and who can point you to helpful resources. The National Lymphedema Network is a good place to start to speak with others in the same position as you, and if you are struggling with the bills from your illness, Fifth Season Financial can provide you with relief. Contact us today to learn more about our FLAG program and how you can benefit from funds now.
About LIVESTRONG Foundation: LIVESTRONG helps cancer survivors and their loved ones by putting the patient first, and creating tools and resources to help ease the challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF)
About Patient Advocate Foundation: The Patient Advocate Foundation helps people in the U.S. with chronic, life-threatening and debilitating illnesses. They provide education and legal counseling for cancer patients about managed care, insurance, and financial issues. PAF Case Managers serve as active liaisons between the patient and their insurer, employer and/or creditors to resolve insurance, job retention and/or debt crisis matters as they relate to their diagnosis; may also be assisted by doctors and healthcare attorneys. PAF seeks to safeguard patients through effective mediation assuring access to care, maintenance of employment and preservation of their financial stability. They also offer PAF authored publications and content, distribute booklets and publications, an annual scholarship program for survivors, and a PAF Co-Pay Relief Program, which provides direct financial assistance to insured patients who meet certain qualifications to help them pay for the prescriptions and/or treatments they need. This assistance helps patients afford the out-of-pocket costs for these items that their insurance companies require. For details, call 866-512-3861.
Fifth Season Financial
About Fifth Season Financial: Fifth Season Financial is a licensed consumer lender in business since 2007 and member of the Better Business Bureau. We are the leader in providing access to much needed funds from an often-overlooked asset – life insurance. We work with patients who have diagnoses of postoperative lymphedema, aggressive stage II, III or IV cancers, congestive heart failure, COPD, ALS, MLS and other serious health conditions. Over the past several years, we have provided more than $75 million in financial assistance to nearly 400 families. No credit check. No income requirements.
Lymphatic Education & Research Foundation
About Lymphatic Education & Research Foundation: Lymphatic Education & Research Foundation serves patients with lymphedema and lymphatic diseases, as well as medical professionals studying these diseases. Their mission is to advance research of the lymphatic system and to find the cause of and cure for lymphatic diseases, lymphedema, and related disorders; to increase public and private funding for lymphatic research and to increase public awareness.
National Lymphedema Network
About National Lymphedema Network: National Lymphedema Network helps patients by creating awareness of lymphedema through education, and promoting and supporting the availability of quality medical treatment for all individuals at risk for or affected by lymphedema. They can help by providing referrals to lymphedema treatment centers, health professionals, training programs, suppliers, support groups, pen pals/net pals, clinical trials, offering financial aid for compression garments to eligible patients, offering quarterly newsletter, online resource guide, educational materials for patients and health professionals, supporting research into the causes of lymphedema and possible alternative treatments, and holding a biennial international conference for health professionals.
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