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How to reduce the risk of lymphedema following breast cancer surgery

How to reduce the risk of lymphedema following breast cancer surgery

Women who undergo surgery for breast cancer often lymph nodes under the arm are examined to determine if the cancer has spread. Cancer cells, the surgeon removes the axillary lymph nodes. This removal can create a complication with the proper flow and leakage of lymph fluid, which is fluid protein that helps the body get rid of toxins.
The lymphatic system works near the skin surface together with intricate blood vessels of the circulatory system. When large lymph nodes are surgically removed, load changes for these small blood vessels move fluid arm and channeled through the rest of the body. If lymph fluid does not filter these smaller channels can cause a condition known as lymphedema, a swelling of tissue caused by lymphatic fluid trapped inside the arm, hand, fingers, chest and thorax.


Reduce the production of lymphatic fluid avoiding certain activities to help prevent lymphedema. These include extreme heat, such as hot tubs and washing breast cancer surgery repetitive, such as scrubbing, sweeping, sunbathing strenuous exercise, sun exposure and sunburn and extreme cold.

Monitor the course of the lymphatics. Do not create jams that could restrict circulation. Wearing tight clothing or jewelry on the wrist can cause your hand to swell. Tight bras can cut off circulation, blocking lymph flow. If there is an indentation in the skin after removing the bra, you are too tight. Carrying heavy grocery bags with the affected arm may increase lymphatic fluid arm and create swelling. Change arms or make a few trips to unload purchases, rather than carry them all at once. Ask health professionals to arm used for blood pressure monitoring. If both arms are affected, in the case of a bilateral surgery, blood pressure can be obtained from the ankle.

Beware infections. Infections can not only worsen lymphedema, but can also cause it. Since the trapped lymph fluid can not remove bacteria, a simple infection can be quite serious and requires immediate medical attention. Extreme care should be taken when shaving under the affected arm with a regular razor. Nail should not cut cuticles and all instruments should be sterilized in an autoclave between customers. The use of long gloves in the garden can avoid cuts. When sewing, use a thimble. The claws of pets should be cut regularly to reduce the risk of scratches. Use insect repellent when outdoors to protect the skin from insect bites. As with monitoring of blood pressure, blood must not be removed from the affected part.

Take protective measures to prevent lymphedema. For insect bites, scratches or other cuts, clean the area with soap and hydrogen peroxide. Then apply a topical antibacterial ointment and cover with a bandage. Watch for any unusual swelling. If swelling develops, contact a physician. This may be a sign that oral antibiotics are necessary.

Maintain your ideal weight. This is one of the best ways to combat or control lymphedema. Being overweight increases the pressure on the vascular system, which adds pressure to the lymphatic system. Eat a low-fat diet rich in vegetables and fiber. The exercise, which increases circulation throughout the body’s blood and lymph fluid, helps rid the body of trapped lymph fluid. Recent studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine PAL, show that weight bearing exercises can improve lymphedema up to 70 percent in women who have had five or more lymph nodes removed. Swimming is one of the best exercises to reduce and prevent lymphedema. The water pressure creates a natural massage in the arm. Swimming helps build muscle mass, which acts as a natural pneumatic pump to push the lymphatic fluid up and out of your arm. Before starting any exercise program, discuss the risks thoroughly with your doctor.


Reducing the amount of lymphatic fluid that goes into your arm is the best first line of defense.

Elevate the arm helps reduce swelling.

Go to a lymphedema therapist and learn the basics of treating lymphedema. This includes techniques of massage and compression therapy, which involves wrapping the arm in a series of bands that push the lymphatic fluid up and out of the arm and hand. It is best to learn about this before lymphedema develops, so quick action can be taken.

Swelling, redness or fever may be a sign of an infection. Contact your doctor immediately.

If the arm starts to feel heavy, painful and swelling develops, you better as soon as possible to be seen by a doctor. Early treatment is vital for lymphedema.

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