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October is officially Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but anyone who has had a mammogram or felt a lump knows that breast cancer awareness is year-round.

We make a yearly mammogram visit, and let's face it — it is not something you look forward to, although a good technician can help ease the anxiety and pain associated with the yearly smashing of the tatas!

You try to watch the faces of the technicians as they take the images to see if there is any change in expression. As they look at the images for quality, you wonder why they take so many. After you leave, you hope the doctor's office does not call until you receive the golden letter and utter a sigh of relief that you have escaped again.

You are a fortunate one; not everyone is, and in 2022, an estimated 287,500 individuals were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The mortality rate of that figure amounts to about 43,250 women and approximately 5% of men in the United States have breast cancer.

Early screening continues to save lives with advanced 3D mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies. The good news is that the survival rate continues to increase with the early detection and treatment.

Treatment side effects can be debilitating, but there have been advancements in life after surgery through exercise, support groups and available educational material.

Cancer exercise specialists are beginning to take a prominent role in assessments and plans to help with the healing process once a physician gives clearance.

A trained specialist can identify muscle imbalances, create a gradual exercise regimen and identify neuropathy to help minimize fatigue, stress and other effects from chemotherapy and radiation.

One of the initial assessments begins with a conversation about the possibility of Lymphedema.
Lymphedema is a swelling that occurs with an accumulation of fluid in the tissue once the lymph nodes have been removed. The job of the lymphatic vessels is to drain fluid from the tissue cells in the body along with bacteria and cleanse the fluid in the system before it returns to the venous system and returns to the heart. The entire process is a continuous recycling in the body. Improper drainage can cause fluid retention and the beginning of a breeding ground for bacteria.

Lymphedema may not always occur after surgery; it can occur at any time during the cancer survivor's life after treatment. When Lymphedema is left untreated, a swollen limb can become hard and filled with fluid.

There are three stages of Lymphedema. Stage one, pitting, occurs when the area is pressed and a pit forms, which takes time to fill in. Stage two, when the swollen area does not pit when pressed, can result in the limb gradually becoming hard with fluid retention. Stage three advances into noticeable changes that usually occur in the lower extremity's appearance of the skin. Left untreated, it can lead to severe complications.

Early detection and beginning an exercise regimen for lymphatic drainage can be beneficial in reducing fluid retention. A cancer exercise specialist can often give the patient simple exercises that can be done at home.

Inquire with your physician about the exercise and lymphatic drainage programs if they apply
to you.

Live, love life and healing.

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