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Flying and lymphedema

Posts: 110
Joined: Jun 2011

Planning my first trip in 2 years! Flight time is approx. 2-1/2 hrs. Should I worry about lymphedema? I think I had some slight swelling, gone now, doctors say they saw nothing. 18 Lymph nodes removed. Should I wear a compression garment, just in case?
Thanks, Marlene

missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

Yes, absolutely wear the compression sleeve and glove combo. I'm assuming you already have these. Mine were custom-fitted and I never fly without them. I don't have swelling in my arm or hand (but I do in my breast, trunk areas). I had 23 nodes removed, so I don't want to take any chances with the arm or hand swelling. Also, be sure to keep the garments on for a few hours after you land. Even if you do not have swelling, this is a good preventative procedure to practice.

Good luck--you'll be fine.

Hugs, Renee

Megan M's picture
Megan M
Posts: 3001
Joined: Dec 2009

If you have lymphedema, be sure and wear the compression garment. I am fortunate and don't have it, so, I don't need one when I fly.

Good luck!

SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Dear Marlene,

I have had two lymph node dissection. The first one with the mastectomy which removed lymph nodes from the 1st level of nodes. The second dissection was due to a good size tumor in the axilla which removed the 2nd level of nodes and some in the 3rd level of nodes. I did have radiation the 2nd time around since they were not able to cut out all the tumor that had wrapped around the large vein in the arm.

I also had 4 bouts of cellulitis with that arm. Severe enough that only IV antibiotic will work and I was hospitalize each time.

I have osteoarthritis in that shoulder, chronic bursitis and a torn supraspinatus tendon in the rotator cuff.

I also have active lung tumors, good size ones in the upper lobe of the lung.

I do understand that one can develop lymphedema at anytime. I have flown as long as 10 hours at one time. I fly several times a year. In 17 years of flying, I never developed lymphedema. Not one of my physicians ever told me to wear a compression sleeve.

I don't own a sleeve or a glove. When and if I ever develop the condition, I will be fitted.

There is no way of knowing who will develop lymphedema and who won't. Just bad luck on those who do.

I don't believe in worrying about what if. There is an old quote that I was very found of that goes this way. "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy!"

My 2 cents worth.

Enjoy your trip.


Posts: 3660
Joined: Aug 2009

I have issues with lymphedema that are fairly 'big'. I have not flown since surgery.

All the time I hear people being told - get a compression sleeve and glove before flying. To get the right sleeve/glove for you is often not as easy as just walking in and saying I want t sleeve/glove - there are many different measurements needed to get the right fit and just because the 'measurements' say soomehing will fit does not mean that it will. All my day sleeves/gloves (night one too) are custom but it took a year for us to get the right fit on sleeves and are still working on getting a glove that really fits without hurting (my fingers are somewhat webbed). Compression level is also an issue for some. Though I have big issues with lymphedema - high compression only makes the problems worse - light is by far the best for me.

We're all unique!


mamolady's picture
Posts: 796
Joined: May 2011

When I asked the physical therapist about flying, she suggested the sleeve as a preventative measure. Most insurances won't cover unless you are diagnosed with LE, but you can purchase the sleeve by a certified fitter yourself.


carkris's picture
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

I had never heard of wearing a compression sleeve while flying and flew several times without one. No issues. Then I had the second surgery and talked to my rads onc and he said I should wear one, so I do on both arms. I will do what I need to to avoid this complication.

missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

I do have it in my breast/trunk. Both my breast surgeon and onc. told me to get custom fitted for both a glove and sleeve to use for flying--as a preventative measure. They both said--better safe than sorry and I have followed their advice. They both said removing ANY number of nodes could bring on lymphedema at any time in my life (I had 23 removed) so I choose to follow their expert opinions. I don't feel that I'm asking for trouble or worrying about "what if"--just following the advice of my experts and helping to prevent any more trouble.

skipper54's picture
Posts: 936
Joined: Feb 2011

it can happen with any number of nodes removed. My firend only had 2 removed and she has real issues - wears sleeve and glove whenever traveling not just traveling by plane. I asked about it before flying in July and was told not to worry about it. Experts each have individual opinions based on what they've seen. I didn't worry about it and had no problems. Just my 2 cents too. Do what you feels right FOR YOU.

Posts: 110
Joined: Jun 2011

Thank you all for your input. I have a couple of weeks to go before I decide. In the meantime I'll visit a Boutique specializing in breast cancer garments and see what they suggest.
Thanks again, Marlene

Posts: 4376
Joined: Jun 2009

I never wear one when I fly, but, I don't have lymphedema. It can be quite serious if you don't if you have lymphedema.


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