Lymphatic drainage in cancer

The lymphatic system, which consists of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes (a mixture of proteins, water, waste products, and immune system elements), is critical to the body's immune defenses. Lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body but particularly in the neck, groin, and armpits, filter lymph fluid so that "clean" lymph is delivered back to the veins that pump blood to the heart.
As the lymphatic fluid passes through the lymph nodes, white blood cells capture and destroy harmful particles. Just like the blood in the circulatory system, the lymphatic fluid is in constant motion. If blockages occur in this circuit, the lymphatic fluid accumulates mostly in the arms or legs, a phenomenon known as lymphoedema.

The lymphatic drainage massage, which is gaining popularity due to its health advantages, considerably alleviates the symptoms of lymphoedema. This type of massage intends to assist the body in maintaining proper blood and lymph circulation, body fluid balance, and immune system functions. There are various styles of lymphatic drainage massage available today, but they all follow the same basic principle: they employ gentle strokes to stretch the skin in the direction of lymph flow. The procedure normally takes between 15-60 minutes.

Breast cancer

Lymphoedema is one of the most prevalent postoperative complications in women with breast cancer following mastectomy. It is defined as the abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in an interstitial space. The phenomenon is caused by an impaired lymph function that is due to several factors: excision of axillary lymph nodes, radiotherapy, fibrosis, or inflammation. Lymphoedema affects roughly 25% of women with this condition. The risk factors for lymphoedema include age, obesity, the extent of axillary surgery, axillary radiation, infections, the number of lymph nodes removed, the type of surgery, but also a lack of exercise and care activities to prevent it.
Several therapeutic methods are used to combat lymphoedema, including exercise, skin care, massage and kinesiotherapy, lymphatic drainage, low-level laser therapy, the use of pneumatic pumps, compression bandaging, as well as pharmaceutical and surgical treatment. Lymphatic drainage has consistently been proven to be the best method of recovery. The underlying principle is straightforward: if we imagine lymph flowing through five "pipes" and the surgeon removes three of them, the remaining lymph must flow through the remaining two "pipes". And lymph drainage does precisely that by directing the lymph to the other "waste treatment sites." Thus, the physiotherapist will facilitate the lymph's flow toward the other functional lymph nodes by utilizing a variety of physical techniques. For lymphatic drainage to be effective, a minimum of 10 sessions must be completed, after which the maintenance phase begins. If it is done as a preventive measure, it is sufficient for the patient to see a physiotherapist once a week or one week a month. In essence, though, there is no set recipe that will work for everyone; instead, the recovery program must be customized for each patient.

Brain tumors

The immune defense against pathogens and tumors in the central nervous system may be impaired by a lack of lymphatic drainage at meningeal level.  Therefore, it is necessary to improve the meningeal lymphatic vasculature in order to provide superior immune responses against brain tumors. The deep cervical lymph nodes are the main draining lymph nodes of the central nervous system, and the mandibular and superficial cervical lymph nodes contribute to antigen uptake in the central nervous system. Therefore, the lymphatic drainage towards the deep cervical lymph nodes is extremely beneficial. These data, when correlated, show that prophylactic VEGF-C therapy can produce a robust and long-lasting T-cell-dependent immune response against brain neoplasms by promoting lymphangiogenesis in the meninges.

Uterine cancer

The most important clinical factors associated with lymphatic drainage disorders in cervical cancer survivors relate to the number of paraaortic lymph nodes removed, the number of pelvic lymphadenopathies, the age at which the cervical cancer was diagnosed and the primary surgical intervention. In terms of clinical characteristics, obesity accelerates the onset of these disorders, and having numerous comorbidities is also a risk factor. Chemoradiotherapy is also considered a risk factor in the development of lymphatic drainage disorders. Lymphatic drainage can provide significant relief in this case as well.

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