Health & Medical Cancer & Oncology

Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Surgery

Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Surgery
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How Can I Avoid Getting Lymphedema? continued...

Keep your skin clean.

Dry your skin thoroughly (including creases and between fingers and toes) and apply lotion.

Take precautions during visits to the doctor.

Ask to have your blood pressure checked on the unaffected arm. Get shots or blood drawn from that arm, if possible.

Tell your doctor about any symptoms.

Let her know if you have redness, swelling, a skin rash, or blistering on the side of your body where you had surgery, or if you have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees F. These warning signs of infection could be an early sign of lymphedema and should be treated immediately.

What Can I Do if I Already Have Lymphedema?

Follow all of the recommendations for preventing lymphedema. That helps you lower the risk for more swelling.

It's a good idea to follow these tips, too:
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Do not use hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, or steam baths.
  • Use warm, rather than hot, water when bathing or washing dishes.
  • Always wear sun protection (at least SPF 30) when going outdoors.
  • Talk to your doctor before traveling.
  • When traveling by air, ask your doctor if you should wear a compression sleeve on your affected arm or a stocking on your affected leg. For long flights, additional bandages may be needed.
  • When sitting or sleeping, elevate your affected arm or leg on pillows.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time lying on your affected side.

Your doctor may refer you to an occupational therapist (OT) who specializes in managing lymphedema. Your OT may have you do specific exercises, limit certain activities, and possibly recommend a compression sleeve or other devices.

See your doctor as recommended.

What's the Outlook for Lymphedema?

With proper care and treatment, your affected limb can be restored to a normal size and shape. The condition can usually be controlled so that it doesn’t get worse.

But remember, it's important to get your symptoms treated as soon as possible.

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