The Drs: Actress Kathy Bates
The Doctors kicked off their February 20 Friday News Feed by welcoming Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates to the show to talk exclusively with them about the health problem she’s been struggling with. In 2003, the talented actress was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and breast cancer, but surgery and chemotherapy successfully placed Kathy into remission. But now, as a result of a double mastectomy, Kathy is suffering from a painful illness that she wants to talk about with The Doctors.
The Drs: Kathy Bates Lymphedema
Dr Jennifer Ashton said it was “Hollywood royalty making a house call” when Kathy joined them on stage. Although Kathy struggled with cancer, what she wanted to open up about was her struggle with lymphedema. She shared that she began to feel symptoms just as soon as she woke up from her double mastectomy operation in the hospital. She shared that she knew someone with lymphedema who didn’t take care of it and toxins were oozing through their skin.
She said that was her idea of lymphedema, so she was terrified. She said the doctors focused on the cancer rather than talking about lymphedema. She ended up having 19 lymph nodes removed on one side and three removed on the other side. She said the arm that had 19 removed is the one that’s really giving her trouble.
The Drs: What Is Lymphedema
Dr Ashton said to think about lymph nodes as the trap you have in your sink drain. The lymph fluid is what’s taking all the waste from your body. When you remove the lymph nodes, the fluid can pool in that area and seep through the tissues, causing incredible, painful swelling. Kathy said she had pain and if she doesn’t massage every night, she has fatigue, heaviness, and has to wear compression sleeves.
Dr Drew Ordon said they talk about mastectomies and breast cancer, but don’t often talk about lymph nodes. He said removing the lymph nodes will affect the lymphatic return and venous return as well, meaning that the fluids want to work their way back to the heart but they struggle to do so.
The Drs: Treating Lymphedema
In terms of treatment, compression is the main way to help lymphatic and venous return. Kathy showed her compression sleeves that she wears, showing that they’re flesh-colored so they’re hard to see. She said there’s a treatment program involving massage as well.
The Doctors pointed out that lymphedema can occur in the legs as well as the arms. They welcomed Kathy’s doctor, Dr Emily Iker, the director of Lymphedema Center, who said the most important thing is to see the patient immediately after surgery. She said they don’t want to wait until the patient reaches stage 2 or stage 3 lymphedema, so early diagnosis and early intervention can keep the patient at stage one for the rest of their life. It’s a chronic condition and symptomatic, and fortunately Kathy’s is just mild.
The Drs: Lymphedema Awareness
Dr Ashton said the quality of life aspect for anyone battling cancer is critically important. Kathy is the spokesperson for the Lymphedema Education and Research Network. Kathy said she chose to be their spokesperson because she learned that 10 million people in this country suffer from lymphedema, which is more than muscular dystrophy, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and AIDS combined. Wow!
She also learned that people in the military suffer from it as well, because any traumatic injury to the body where lymph nodes are affected will cause lymphedema. She said that many celebrities are suffering from it, but no one wants to talk about it, so she thought she would be the one.
Kathy said we need education to train therapists specifically in lymphatic drainage. She said we also need research and the group she’s involved with is doing their first California 5K in June. There are also new investigational procedures going on at UCLA.