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Grant Provides Relief for Breast Cancer Patients

January 2009

Flagstaff Medical Center’s Therapy Services and Breast Cancer Resource Center recently received a $61,380 grant from the Phoenix Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

For some breast cancer patients, beating the disease is only one step in their return to health.

Lymphedema, an often unexpected,secondary condition following breast cancer surgery, brings chronic pain and discomfort, and the risk of serious infection. Thanks to a grant from Phoenix Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, Flagstaff Medical Center is helping women control this often painful chronic condition.

The grant allows breast cancer patients who do not have insurance or other financial means the opportunity to receive lymphedema treatment, massage therapy, education, postsurgical and mastectomy undergarments and prosthesis. The grant also provides additional funding for travel and lodging for patients who live outside the Flagstaff area who are receiving their cancer care at the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare – Flagstaff campus.

What Is Lymphedema
During breast cancer surgery, surgeons may remove the lymph nodes under the arms to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which helps remove bacteria and toxins from the body.

When they are removed, the lymph fluid might not drain adequately, causing lymphedema or abnormal swelling. Swelling can range from mild to extreme and make it impossible to use the affected arm, hands and fingers. Symptoms include heaviness or tightness, restricted range of motion, aching or discomfort, recurring infections, and hardening and thickening of the skin.

Hands-On Treatment
“Although there is no cure for lymphedema, the condition can be controlled through diligent care of the affected limb,” said Susan Enerson, O.T., C.L.T., occupational and certified lypmhedema therapist with FMC’s Therapy Services. “Lymphedema treatments include manual lymphatic drainage, therapeutic massage and a combination of special exercises and bandaging techniques. Because lymphedema can become chronic, many therapy sessions and prolonged treatments may be needed to help women be more comfortable.”

Living Well With Lymphedema
Margaret Jaramillo, 68, of Flagstaff, knows firsthand the difficulty of living with lymphedema. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, Jaramillo underwent surgical removal of her breast and surrounding lymphatic tissue, as well as radiation and chemotherapy treatments. These surgeries left her susceptible to lymphedema.

After her breast cancer treatment, a fall caused Jaramillo’s left arm to swell and it became infected. Hospitalized three times for infections associated with lymphedema in the injured arm, Jaramillo turned to FMC’s Therapy Services and Breast Cancer Resource Center for help.

“Thanks to the therapists at FMC, I am back to enjoying my life. The therapists helped reduce the pain and the swelling,” Jaramillo said. “Before I started the lymphedema treatments, I was in constant pain. But now I am back to work and spending time with my family without letting this condition interfere with my life.”

To learn more about lymphedema treatment options, visit the Therapy Services page at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com. To make an appointment with a certified lymphedema therapist call, 928 773-2125.



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