Women who have lymph nodes removed as part of breast cancer surgery may be at an increased risk for developing lymphedema, a condition caused by blockages of the lymph vessels. Lymph vessels run throughout the body carrying fluid, cells and other material, but may become blocked when lymph nodes are removed. This will result in swelling of the arm.
To reduce the risk of developing lymphedema, the following precautions are recommended:
- Treat infections of the affected arm and hand immediately.
- Maintain a healthy weight. The greatest risk factor for the development of lymphedema is obesity.
- Wear gloves when doing house or garden work.
- Keep the affected hand well-moisturized.
- Use the unaffected arm when having blood drawn or getting injections.
- For four to six weeks after surgery, use the unaffected arm when lifting heavy objects.
- Protect the arm from sunburn.
- Do not cut cuticles.
- Use insect repellent when outdoors.
- Keep skin clean.
The Lymphedema Management Program is staffed by specially-trained physical and occupational therapists. The treatment consists of evaluation and may include manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandages, therapeutic exercises, skin care and recommendations for compression garments. The patient is instructed in self-bandaging and self-care with the goal of being independent in self-management. A prescription from your doctor is necessary to participate in this program.
Lymphedema Management Program
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call the Lymphedema Management Program at 918-481-2977.