Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Just Finished Breast Cancer Treatment, Am I at Risk for Lymphedema?

Women who have undergone breast cancer surgery and/or radiotherapy are particularly at risk for developing lymphedema.  An individual who has had any type of breast cancer surgery or therapy is at risk of developing lymphedema. The National Lymphedema Networks 10 Precautions for Women at Risk of Lymphedema include the following:

  1. Do not ignore any slight increase of swelling in the arm, hand, fingers, neck, or chest. Call your doctor. The sooner treatment begins, the more effective it will be.
  2. Never allow an injection, needle stick, or blood pressure cuff in the affected arm. Breaks in the skin allow infection causing bacteria to enter. Pressure on the arm may damage existing lymphatics.
  3. Avoid heavy lifting with the affected arm. Never carry heavy handbags with over-the-shoulder straps. Be especially careful lifting children and groceries. Do not lift more than 15 pounds at a time as excessive weight lifting can place a burden on the lymphatic system.
  4. Do not wear tight jewelry or elastic bands on the affected arm/hand as these may obstruct the lymphatics.
  5. Avoid injuries to the arm such as cat scratches, cuts, sunburn, insect bites as these may serve as a portal for bacteria to enter and cause infection.
  6. Avoid extreme temperature changes when bathing, washing dishes. Stay out of the sauna and hot tub. Keep the arm protected from the sun. Temperature changes may lead to increased swelling.
  7. Wear gloves while performing gardening or housework. This will prevent any type of minor injury that could result in increased swelling.
  8. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Light exercise is beneficial.
  9. Wear well-fitted supportive bras that are not too tight and without wires. Avoid a heavy prosthesis. These may put extra pressure on the collarbone and shoulders.
  10. Wear a compression sleeve in airplanes, as the change in pressure may  increase the risk of swelling. Remember to drink plenty of water.

For more information about breast cancer treatment and lymphedema, contact Kristen at 713-623-4247. She is a certified BOC, ABC custom garment fitter and can help you find the right compression garment for your needs.

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