18 Steps to Prevention
For the breast
cancer patent who is at risk of lymphedema,
the breast cancer patient who as developed lymphedema.
WHO IS AT
At risk is
anyone who has had either a simple mastectomy, lumpectomy or
modified radical mastectomy in combination with axillary
node dissection and, often, radiation therapy. Lymphedema
can occur immediately postoperative, within a few months, a
couple of years, or 20 years or more after cancer therapy.
With proper education and care, lymphedema can be avoided
or, if it develops, kept under control.
following instructions should be reviewed carefully and, if
necessary, discussed with your physician or therapist.
do not ignore any slight increase of swelling in the
arm, hand, fingers, or chest wall (consult
with your doctor immediately).
Never allow an
injection or a blood drawing in the affected arm(s).).
Have blood pressure
checked in the unaffected arm.
Keep the edemic arm,
or "at-risk" arm, spotlessly clean. Use lotion (Eucerin,
Nivea) after bathing. When drying it, be gentle, but
thorough. Make sure it is dry in any creases and
repetitive movements against resistance with the
affected arm (scrubbing, pushing, pulling).
Avoid heavy lifting
with the affected arm. Never carry heavy handbags or
bags with over the shoulder straps.
Do not wear tight
jewelry or elastic bands around affected fingers or
temperature changes when bathing, washing dishes, or
sunbathing (no sauna or hot tub). Keep arm protected
from the sun.
Avoid any type of
trauma (bruising, cuts, sunburn or other burns, sports
injuries, insect bites, cat scratches.
Wear gloves while
doing housework, gardening or any type of work that
could result in even a minor injury.
When manicuring your
nails, avoid cutting your cuticles (inform
Exercise is important,
but consult with your therapist. Do not overtire an arm
at risk; if it starts to ache, lie down and elevate it.
exercises: walking, swimming, light aerobics, bike
riding and specially designed ballet or yoga. (Do
not lift more than 12 lbs.)
When traveling by air, patients with lymphedema must
wear a compression sleeve. Additional bandages may be
required on a long flight.
Patients with large
breasts should wear light breast prostheses (heavy
prostheses may put too much pressure on the lymph nodes
above the collar bone). Soft pads may have to be worn
under the bra strap. Wear a well fitted bra that is not
to tight and with no wire support.
Use an electric razor
to remove hair from axilla. Maintain electric razor
properly replacing heads as needed.
Patients who have
lymphedema should wear a well fitted compression sleeve
during all waking hours. At least every four to six
months, see your therapist for follow-up. If the sleeve
is too loose, most likely the arm circumference has
reduced or the sleeve is worn.
If you notice a rash, blistering, redness, increase of
temperature or fever, see your physician immediately.
An inflammation or infection in the affected arm could
be the beginning of lymphedema or a worsening of
Maintain your ideal
weight through a well-balanced low-sodium, high-fiber
diet. Avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages.
Lymphedema is a high protein edema, but eating too
little protein will not reduce the protein element in
the lymph fluid; rather, this will weaken the connective
tissue and worsen the condition. The diet should
contain protein that is easily digested, such as chicken