My Cancer Story

Treating Lymphedema

When you have all or some of your lymph nodes removed, you run the risk of getting a condition known as Lymphedema. This happens when the body cannot filter the lymphatic fluid properly throughout your arm or chest area because of scarring and/or the absence of lymph nodes.  As a result, swelling can occur in your arm and sometimes your chest and trunk area. The swelling must be taken seriously because the fluid can become a breeding ground for bacterial infections that can lead to cellulitis (inflammation of connective tissue including severe inflammation of the outer layers of the skin) and sepsis (a potentially deadly medical condition characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state caused by severe infection).

The treatment for lymphedema is compression and lymphatic massage that trains the body to use its superficial lymphatic pathways to channel the fluid out of your affected area. There is a very high success rate with treatment if you get it early.

The best treatment for lymphedema is prevention.

Preventing Lymphedema

There are things that can be done in the very early stages of lymphedema that can prevent it from becoming a problem. The key is to recognize the symptoms of swelling and act quickly.

Things that cause an increase in lymphatic fluid in your arm

  • Extreme heat (hot baths, doing the dishes)
  • Strenuous repetitive exercises (mopping, sweeping, raking, etc)
  • Sunbathing, sun exposure, sun burn
  • Extreme cold (ice packs)

Things to Avoid

  • Tight clothing around your wrist
  • Tight bras that leave an indentation
  • Carrying grocery bags, heavy purses, etc. with affected arm
  • Getting your blood pressure checked in that arm