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Some ways to lower your risk for Lymphedema after removal of lymph nodes

Ritzy's picture
Posts: 4382
Joined: Aug 2009

These are just a few tips to reduce the risk of Lymphedema, but, always check with your own doctor.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse for suggestions on daily stretching exercises. These can begin a week after surgery and/or radiation therapy, or whenever recommended by your doctor. Continue these exercises up to 18 months after surgery and treatment to maintain your range of motion.
  • Exercise regularly. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting or resuming an exercise program. If your normal fitness regimen included using arm weights, ask the doctor how long you should wait before resuming this activity and whether he or she recommends any weight restrictions. However, stop exercising at the first sign of pain. In addition, if your arm on the side where you had the surgery becomes tired during exercise, cool down and elevate it.
  • Avoid sudden increases in the amount of physical work performed with the arm on the surgery side (for example, packing up your house for a move). It is important to gradually build up your level of activity with your arm.
  • Maintain an ideal body weight for your age and height. Women who are obese are more likely to develop lymphedema.
  • Wear clothing and jewelry that is loose and does not pinch or squeeze your arm or hand, like a tight sleeve or bracelet does, because this can cause the fluid to build up and lead to lymphedema.
  • Lighten your purse and try not to carry it or heavy bags over your shoulder on the side where the surgery was performed to avoid direct pressure and constriction of your arm.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. Having a burn on your hand or arm can increase the risk of developing lymphedema. For example, don't use hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, or steam baths. Use warm instead of very hot water when bathing or washing dishes.
  • To prevent sunburn and skin breakdown, always wear sunscreen that is at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 and cover the arm completely when outdoors, or stay out of the sun altogether, particularly during the hottest part of the day.
  • Avoid blood pressure readings in the affected arm and blood draws.
  • When traveling by air, ask the doctor if you should wear a compression sleeve on the affected arm. If possible, keep the arm elevated (above the level of your heart) and flex it frequently during the trip.
  • When sitting or sleeping, elevate the arm on a pillow and avoid lying on the affected side for an extended period of time.

Here is the link to the information above:    http://www.cancer.net/all-about-cancer/cancernet-feature-articles/side-effects/after-treatment-breast-cancer-preventing-lymphedema

I really need to watch my purse.  It is so big, so heavy and I do sometimes carry it on my "bad"side.

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

I do the same sometimes Ritzy, but, my hubby is good to remind me to switch arms.  Thanks for posting this. 

I would add one thing and that is to see a lymphedema specialtist and not just a physical therapist if you have problems.

Thanks again,


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