Personal Care and Lymphedema Garments
A visit to Reflections, a program of the Ted Mann Family Resource Center in Los Angeles where we get measured for lymphedema garments and learn how they help...
MARCIA BRITVAN: I’m a 12-year breast cancer survivor. About five years ago, I developed a condition called lymphedema. Many breast cancer survivors develop it immediately after surgery, because when they remove the lymph nodes sometimes there’s the incision will damage the flow of lymph, and lymph is the fluid in your arm that helps carry impurities throughout your body – a lot of them are in the chest area. What happens is the lymph fluid is no longer able to travel; it’s not something where you can take a diuretic and get rid of the fluid. It really has to do with the fact that the path of the fluid it carries in your body is disrupted. And the way to treat it is through lymphatic massage and with a lymphedema garment, a compression garment.
SALES ASSOCIATE: We’re going to measure for your sleeve first. We take three measurements on the arm: we do the wrist, the elbow, and then the upper arm. And then we do the lymph. For the lymph we measure from the point where we go directly from the armpit down to the wrist. This makes difference in the length because they come in different lengths. They come in a regular length and a long length.Once we have measured and decided on the size, we have them try them on. They should fit snuggly but not too tight. You want to make sure you don’t impair any circulation to cause further damage. A garment then goes over the sleeve from the wrist and it covers just this portion of the hand and thumb. Sometimes if you’re not careful and you have your wrist too tight, it might back up the fluid back into the arm causing more problems. So you always want to make sure. This is one of the most important measurements is the wrist. The garment will then fit over. You want to make sure you have no wrinkles. Wrinkles just help move the fluid all the way up.
MARCIA: Feels nice, feels tight, so it actually feels comfortable. But one of the things is that it has to be able to move comfortably, so actually I think this is the right size.
SALES ASSOCIATE: There are different compressions. There’s a lighter compression, which is used basically as a preventive measure, mainly used when people are flying, and then if people actually have swelling, there’s actually a heavier compression, which really is much tighter and it does move the fluid.
MARCIA: When you’re having lymphatic massage, what they do is they teach you how to stroke the fluid up and have to bring it across your chest and into essentially the chest cavity where all the lymph glands are. And there’s actually a way of repositioning it. It’s 18 steps and it’s choreographed where you’re activating the lymph glands in your hip area, in your chest area, and your back. And then what you do is you just move it across and create a new path for it to flow. And what you do is you get the lymph fluid out so that you bring it back down to a normal size and then the compression garment of course maintains that pressure so that the lymph fluid is forced back up.
SALES ASSOCIATE: Occasionally people also get it in their fingers and then we have gloves where individual fingers come down and cover the whole hand. They also come with a silicone borderline top if people request it and it helps from sliding, and they also come with straps so the top of the sleeve would come to here and strap would more enclose the arm. And those are for people who have a little more lymphedema on the top of their arm, or who just do not feel comfortable having something cutting to this portion of their arm.
MARCIA: One of the things that’s so good about Reflections is it really is a one-stop shopping site for cancer appearance related issues. You can take care of your wigs, your vasectomy products, prosthesis bras; you can get hats and scarves. There’s skin care if you’re going through radiation and you want to use really, really high-quality products that you know are going to not irritate your skin, and then you have your lymphedema garments.