Lymphedema after Removal of Breast Tissue

  • Excerpt

Mastectomy is the surgical removal of breast tissue, usually performed to remove breast tumors. Although breast-sparing operations are sometimes possible, the breast is completely removed in many cases. Apart from the psychological impact of this operation, lymphedema is a physical side effect that occurs especially when lymph nodes have been removed as well. The edema may be of a local nature, but it may also affect the entire arm. It is accompanied by pain, tension in the skin, and difficulties in shoulder and arm movements. Because stagnant lymph flow also inhibits the immune function of lymph, there is an increased risk of infection. The problem requires lymph drainage, special arm-stockings, and exercise.

In 1989, French researchers reported that they had tested the effects of OPCs in cases of breast surgery. In a group of 63 women, 33 received OPCs and a control group of 30 received an inert placebo. During the first six weeks of the trial, the placebo was just as effective as OPCs, but after a longer period of time (six months in total), the placebo effect disappeared while it became evident that the positive effects of OPCs endured. The speed of the lymph was improved with 0.5 cm per minute in the OPCs group. There was no change in speed in the placebo group.

(Oligomères procyanidoliques (ENDOTELON) dans le traitement des lymphoedèmes post-thérapeutiques des membres supérieurs. A. Pecking, J.P. Desprez-Curely, G. Megret. Symposium Satellite, Congrès International d’ANGIOLOGIE, Toulouse (France), 4-7 octobre 1989.)