How is your Lymphatic System Connected with Cancer?

How is your Lymphatic System Connected with Cancer?Are you living with or at high risk for breast cancer? Did you know there are certain habits and exercises you can use to strengthen your body’s response to breast cancer? Not only will these habits and exercises help prevent and self treat breast cancer, but they will also benefit your health in a myriad of other ways.

In this article, I will detail exactly what these habits and exercise are. But, before I go that far, let’s start with the base: your lymphatic system.

What is the Lymphatic System?

Why your Lymphatic System is Critical to your Overall HealthThe lymph system is a network of nodes, organs, and lymph vessels. Your lymph system consists of your adenoids, liver, lymph fluid, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, spleen, thymus, thoracic duct,  and tonsils. Working in harmony, your lymph system’s components absorb excess fluid from the body and return that fluid to your bloodstream. These components also absorb fat in your small intestine and boost your immune system.

Why your Lymphatic System is Critical to your Overall Health

A healthy, well-functioning lymph system serves several critical functions for your health and wellness, including:

    • Balance of proteins in your tissues’ fluids
    • Diffusion and circulation of nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K from your red blood cells.
    • Regulation of your blood pressure

The most important reason to have a healthy lymph system?: A strong lymph system provides protection from harmful toxins and bacteria.

Now that you understand the importance of your lymph system, let’s explore how it is connected with cancer.

How is your Lymphatic System Connected with Cancer?

As mentioned above, your lymph system serves as a critical line of defense for your body’s immunity. In this defense, your lymphatic system destroys old or abnormal cells, such as cancer cells.

Details on How your Lymph System Removes Cancerous Cells

This is a high level overview on how cancerous cells are removed from your body:

Blood circulates throughout your body.

      1. As your blood flows, fluid leaks from your blood vessels to your body tissues.
      2. This excess fluid delivers food to your cells and forms tissue fluid with your body’s tissues.
      3. At this point, this excess fluid picks up bacteria, waste products, and damaged or abnormal cells, including cancerous cells.
      4. After this “garbage collection”, the fluid drains into your lymph vessels.

Next, your lymph fluid flows through your lymph vessels and lymph glands, filtering out those nasty cancerous cells along the way.

The most important habit you can adopt? Get moving and exercise! Your lymph system doesn’t have a pump to stimulate lymph movement; therefore, you have to get that lymph moving manually. The best way to do this is via exercise, but not just any exercise.

Learn more below:

Get Moving to Boost your Lymph Flow

Any vertically oriented exercise is best for your lymph system. So, your go to exercises should be downward dogs, jumping jacks, or headstands. Certain physical limitations, however, can make these types of exercises uncomfortable, painful, or even impossible. For these reasons, bouncing on a trampoline, or rebounding, is the most effective workout you can give your lymph system. Check out the next section to learn why.

The Best Exercise for your Lymphatic System: Rebounding!

The Best Exercise for your Lymphatic System- Rebounding!What is Rebounding? Rebounding is a great exercise that helps you satisfy all four essential elements of exercise: aerobic capacity, endurance, flexibility, and strength. Rebounding increases the flow of oxygen to all cells in your body, and the exercise can help you become healthier, stronger, and help your body become more capable of effectively fighting disease.

What Equipment is Needed to Rebound?All you need is a high quality rebounder trampoline, or exercise trampoline, to rebound! If you need more stability during your bounces, you can also purchase a stability bar with most rebounder models. For more info on what to look for when shopping for a rebounder, check out this detailed rebounder trampoline buyer’s guide.

Even if you rebound regularly, you still need to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet, get proper rest, avoid negative behaviors such as drug use, and get proper treatment for states detrimental to your health such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Due to its positive impact on not only your lymph system but a variety of other bodily systems, rebounding is the best exercise to invigorate your body’s lymph flow.

Leonard Parker, Owner of RebounderZoneIf you are ready to start a new, refreshing stage in your battle against breast cancer, start rebounding today with these high quality rebounders. Use discount code VICTORY for 10% off all products in our store.

A life of better health awaits you.

Author: Leonard Parker, Owner of RebounderZone 

Yoga For Lymphedema – Shining Warrior Pose (Flow)

Diana Ross Founder of Breast Cancer Yoga

Yoga and Lymphedema Management:
Practicing continuous flowing movements significantly improves the lymphatic system. When lymph fluid is disrupted because of breast cancer surgery, trauma or infection, excessive lymph fluid builds up. This stagnant fluid can play havoc on the tissues and create swelling. There also can be a reduction of the oxygen absorption in the lymphatic system which increases the chance for infection. Practicing a flowing yoga pumps the lymphatic fluid throughout the body’s channels, rather than allowing it to accumulate or back up. It is great for maintaining healthy breast tissue. To keep this fluid moving, we need to also foster relaxation. It will facilitate renewed or restored strength and flexibility.

Shining Warrior Pose (Flow) For Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema Management:
Shining Warrior Pose increases circulation to arms, shoulders and breast region by opening the ribcage and expanding the chest. These arm movements and conscious breathing activate lymphatic system.

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Benefits:

  • Opens and expands pectoral muscles
  • Reduces postsurgical fibrous adhesions and scar tissue
  • Promotes axillary lymphatic fluid drainage which decreases blockages of lymph nodes
  • Softens stiff shoulders and/or frozen shoulders,
  • Aids flexibility of the rib cage and thoracic spine
  • Frees the breath and opens the chest
  • Improves leg strength and flexibility of quadriceps and calf muscles
  • Encourages balance while strengthening ankles
  • Calms the body by  harmonizing the breath to the movement
  • Increases ROM (range of motion) for arms and shoulders

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing. Bring right foot forward, 1 to 3 feet apart, toes and hips facing forward with back foot slightly turned out ( for balance). INHALE , bring hands in front of chest. Come into PRAYER MUDRA with shoulders relaxed.
  2. EXHALE, lift rib cage and lift chest up bringing arms out to side with elbows softly bent ( shoulders remain relaxed). Bend the front knee over the ankle (your front knee should be aligned above the ankle).
  3. INHALE, arms return and hands come back into PRAYER while the front leg straightens.
  4. Continue 5/10 more rounds and then repeat on left side.
  5. INHALE, bring hands in front into PRAYER MUDRA (palms together.)
  6. EXHALE, arms flow out while bending left knee.
  7. Continue 5/10 more rounds.

.Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Breath – Blood – Lymph Flow

Breast Cancer Yoga Savasana

By: Breast Cancer Yoga Staff.

Breathing Exercises And The Lymphatic System For Breast Cancer Lymphedema Management:The flow of lymph, which is rich in immune cells, improves with proper breathing. Furthermore, the expansion of the lungs air pockets increases the flow of both blood and lymph. This flow reduces infection in the lungs and other tissues. Breathing properly improves the functioning of the body’s organs stimulating digestion, assimilation and elimination.

Another benefit of the breath is how it supports the functioning of the body’s organs such as the improvement of the peristalsis movement which stimulates the liver so the release of bile will activate the detoxification process. By maintaining a large supply of oxygen in the lungs, many organs function better, including the brain.

The most important function of all is the stimulation of the “relaxation response” that results in lower tension and an overall improved sense of well being.

If we can build a regular asana practice with conscious breathing; we will release muscular tension, and consequently the nerves will relax. Here is where restorative poses are most helpful. Supported Bridge, Savasana, Supported Legs Up The Wall, Supported Child’s Pose are a few that are very restorative. When the breath is brought under control is improves the physical such that there is an efficient absorption of oxygen and the elimination of carbon dioxide. This will result in an improved mental and emotional state of mind.

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange: Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Topsy Turvy Travels – Lymphedema Journey

Lyphedema  ManagementTOPSY TURVY  TRAVELS by Lesley Ronson Brown: Yoga & Lymphedema Expert
September 2013

So what helps us through our lymphedema or cancer journey?  Whether our journey is dealing with lymphedema, chemo, radiation or some other treatment or test, we often travel through turbulent terrain.

The answer is different for each of us, depending on our personalities, needs, environments, etc.  But to safely traverse the minefields of cancer treatment and its side effects, which sometimes is lymphedema, we each need to figure that out.  Just like when we take a trip, it tends to go better if we have a plan.

If you aren’t the rustic type, you wouldn’t book yourself into a top of the Alps campground, sleeping perilously on a mountainside, next to a sheep that doesn’t even say “baa baa” in English.  No, you’d be at the Four Seasons or something as close to that as you could afford.  A charming B&B on a small Parisian street would be wonderful.  But if you are more outdoorsy, you might not be able to stand staying in more conventional lodging.Lymphedema Jpourney

So why don’t we take the same approach to traveling with cancer?  Traveling with lymphedema?  Why don’t we figure out what we need for a comfortable trip?

A big factor is that none of us really want to go on this journey.  We all find ourselves on this trip against our will.  We didn’t choose it.  We don’t want it.  But darn it, we got it.

So we can choose to pout or to put out.  Put out what we need to navigate this trip as comfortably as we can.  What do we do to move from merely surviving to thriving on this journey?  We do some soul searching, meditation, quiet thinking, maybe yoga, and then we bust out!!

Figure out what makes you tick and what you need.  You probably already know it. Look at how you like to spend your time.  Look at what brings joy to your heart.  Do it!  Look at what you can’t stand to do.  Don’t do that!

When I first got cancer, everyone wanted to drive me to chemo or sit with me while I was there.  But I really didn’t need or want that. If I had felt tired or poorly, I would have asked them for help with such things.  But I was able to drive myself and frankly, I liked having time by myself to read or to sleep.  So instead, I got them all to come over to my house and clean out my cabinets and closets!  That’s what I really needed.

But for many of us, it’s nice to have someone with us for chemo or a medical appointment.  They can get us water or coffee, or talk with us.  They can take notes for us when it’s hard to remember exactly what the doctor or nurse said. They can help us walk if we feel weak.  Ask for what you need, not what people think you need.Breast Cancer Lymphedema

When lymphedema started showing up, my friends encouraged me to delve into it to learn more. Because I like fashion and enjoy accessorizing just about everything, they accompanied me to find sleeves that were fun to wear, but also therapeutic, of course.  No one told me to just suck it up,
or be stuck with it in a way that would get me down.

When I first got cancer in 2006, a friend gave me a little ceramic plaque that said, “Put on a little lipstick, you’ll be fine.”  So I did.  And I was fine… most of the time. Now, we all know the lipstick didn’t actually make me better, but it made me feel better and look better. And that is what made me better.  It gave me hope.  It made me buck up when I didn’t feel like bucking up.  And lipstick does that.  So does eye liner and blush.  Do you know who knew that and built his company on that philosophy?  Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon.  Years ago, he told his employees that they didn’t sell lipstick.  They sold hope.

Even though the cancer has come back a time or two or three or four, in my mind, I am fine.  Not cured.  Not healed.  But fine. I put on my lipstick and am fortunate to be able to manage my various diseases with grace.  Like anything, that takes effort and determination.  I have chosen to use my energy to make my journey more comfortable.  You can, too.

Lesley BrownLesley Ronson Brown is a two-time breast cancer survivor and a three-time lymph node cancer survivor.  She has hadlymphedema since 2011 and has learned how to manage it through traditional and complementary therapies.  Lesley is a certified Yoga teacher, with a specialty certification in Restorative Yoga, and has taught for more than 15 years.  She also is certified in Pilates and Group Fitness Exercise. But her favorite thing to teach is yoga!  She currently is completing her 500-hour yoga teacher training and is writing a thesis on Yoga and Lymphedema.

Information, Please!

What is Lymphedema? 

By Lesley Ronson Brown, Registered Yoga Therapist

Breast Cancer Yoga Lymphedema

Good heavens! It’s hard to understand this disease called lymphedema that some of us get…and some of us don’t…as a side effect of cancer treatment when lymph nodes are removed followed by radiation. We might be given a pamphlet to read about it, but that is usually at a time when we are struggling with much confusion and fear.
So here is some info…the lymphatic system is part of our body’s waste management system and has two main jobs. It transports waste from cells that blood vessels don’t pick up and it acts as a defense system to protect us from infection. Blood transports nutrients to our cells and then transports waste away from the cells. Some of the waste products are too large for the blood vessels or are not the type of thing it wants to pick up. S

o, here comes the lymphatic system to the rescue! It’s similar to trash day. The regular garbage trucks pick up refuse in cans and recycling bins, but if you have an old BBQ grill or couch sitting on your curb, it won’t be picked up. So some other entity has to come along and get it. That’s what the lymphatic system does.
The lymph fluid moves inside vessels, similar to veins. These nodes are bean-shaped storage facilities where the lymph is examined; and valves which help move the fluid along. Lymph fluid contains waste, bacteria, proteins and sometimes something that seems potentially cancerous. The nodes break down these extraneous materials, and then transport the waste via the lymphatic vessels, eventually expelling them from the body in urine.

What helps the lymphatic fluid flow is the movement of our muscles against the vessels, and also very, very light massage. Unlike blood, there is no pumping mechanism like the heart to move it along. Physical movement and light pressure is required. The vessels are close to the skin, which is why after a massage, most people need to use the bathroom since their lymphatic flow has been helped along by light Swedish or specific lymphatic drainage massage. Deep or hard pressure tissue massage is not beneficial since it presses too hard on the vessels, similar to stepping on a garden hose. It might reduce or stop the flow, causing a backup. Not a good thing for those of us who have had more than 6 lymph nodes removed!

So who is at risk? Cancer survivors are at risk. If they had lymph node removal, lymph node damage or radiation; the standard protocol for anyone having a lumpectomy, are at risk for lymphedema. If you had only or up to 1-6 sentinel nodes removed, followed by radiation, your risk is fairly small. For those of us who have had more nodes removed, it is larger, but there is no way to tell exactly how large. What we don’t know is how many lymph nodes we actually have in our axilla (armpit) area. Most people have between 600-700 nodes throughout their bodies, but what isn’t known is the exact number in different locations. So if someone has 40 lymph nodes in the axilla and then removes 8 nodes, it might mean their chance of getting lymphedema is less than someone who has only 24 lymph nodes and had 18 removed. But we have no way of knowing…frustrating!

Once the nodes are removed, the lymphatic vessels are disconnected, for example if you cut a spaghetti noodle in half. So the fluid has lost its direct route. But it is smart! It begins to try and find a way around this traffic jam, just like we do when we are driving. It backs up and tries to flow towards another lymph vessel. Sometimes it finds its way, but the flow is slowed and gets stuck, which causes the swelling. Radiation is problematic because it leaves behind scar tissue. This scar tissue affects the lymph’s ability to flow smoothly, similar to a dam effect. Lymphedema can occur shortly after surgery and radiation or many years later.

So what can you do? Meet with a physical or occupational therapist that specializes in treating lymphedema after surgery and radiation. Do this as part of your Survivor Awareness Plan. While we cannot prevent lymphedema, we can reduce our risk by becoming educated and aware; and by exercising, so our muscles can help move our lymphatic fluid along. Yoga is great to do because it helps us move, and more importantly helps move lymph throughout the channels. Yoga also helps our minds stay sharply focused and calms our spirits.

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For More Lymphedema Information:

Suggested Lymphedema Videos For Lymphedema Prevention & Management!

“Let It Rise”

“Seaweed Arms”

T-Shirt Wisdom

By: Lesley Ronson Brown

So, one day about two years ago, I was shopping and tried on a new t-shirt and noticed the left sleeve seemed tighter than the right one.  And I thought, “How strange, this shirt isn’t made very well.” And that’s where my thinking stopped.  If I had let myself think it through and looked beyond the immediate situation, I might have thought, “Hmm….How strange, why isn’t this shirt fitting me correctly?  Is it just some weird sizing by the manufacturer?  Did I gain weight?”  And maybe, finally, “What’s up with my arm?”

Even though I’m a yoga teacher and very much in touch with my body, I am also a woman who never thought I could possibly get lymphedema.  But to put it more honestly, I’m a woman who didn’t want to think about getting lymphedema, the disease that compromises lymphatic fluid flow, and causes swelling.

Yes, I had 17 lymph nodes removed in one arm and 7 on the other. Yes, I’d been given the pamphlets about lymphedema.  Yes, I’d been told to wear an arm sleeve when I flew.  But lymphedema just wasn’t at the top of mind for me.  I wasn’t going to think about it!

So what did I do? At first, after the t-shirt alert, I did nothing. But soon I began to notice that on my left arm, the triceps seemed a little bigger than on my right one. I could see the difference when I was doing an overhead press with weights I thought it was because I had been a waitress and carried my tray with my left arm, which worked my biceps more, making my triceps weaker. This made sense to me, so I wasn’t alarmed. I tried to strengthen the triceps more, but it didn’t make a difference.

Then one day, something happened that did alarm me.  While attending a yoga conference, I had a Thai massage.  I knew it was different from a regular massage, but didn’t quite know how.  After the first few minutes, I found out.  The practitioner put her body weight on me, pressing down substantially.  When she bent my left elbow and pressed down, I felt a “pop!” on the inside of my lower left arm.  It hurt a bit, so I asked her to stop and just do my lower body.  I had her finish early.  I told her my arm felt strange, and had gotten hard, and she said that this popping or hardening situation had never happened with other clients and suggested I put ice on it.  I do not think she did anything wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with Thai massage.  But it was wrong for me. Unfortunately, I had exposed my arm to trauma, one of the things we are warned about after lymph node surgery.

I visited my primary physician to get an x-ray, but she said not much would show up, because a bone wasn’t involved in the mild discomfort I was experiencing.  Neither she nor I were thinking lymphedema.  It wasn’t at the top of either of our minds. Keep it elevated, use more ice and come back if it got worse, she advised.

My arm remained slightly swollen and still hard, and one day, a friend who also had been on a breast cancer journey, asked if I thought I might have lymphedema.  I stared at her, horrified, and thought, “Blankety-blank, maybe I do have lymphedema.”  I went to a lymphedema physical therapist, who then confirmed that I indeed had lymphedema.  And she and I have become good friends over the past two years.

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