Lymphoedema is a potential side effect of treatment for breast cancer. It is a type of swelling that can occur if the lymph nodes in the armpit have been removed by surgery or are damaged by radiotherapy. If the lymph vessels and glands in this area are not functioning properly then excess fluid can build up in the arm, causing swelling to the arm / hand.
If you are affected by Lymphoedema, your arm may become stiff and uncomfortable to move. There are many things that can be done to reduce this swelling and discomfort, such as specialist lymphoedema massage, so ask your medical team if you are at all worried about Lymphoedema.
If you are at risk from developing lymphoedema, your medical team will inform you, when you consent for your treatment. If you are at risk, please read and follow the advice points below, to help reduce your chance of developing lymphoedema.
To help reduce your risk of developing Lymphoedema : -
** Do not carry heavy shopping with the affected arm.
** Do not allow your arm to be used for injections, blood samples or transfusions.
** Do not have any acupuncture on the affected arm.
** Do not have your blood pressure taken on the affected arm.
** Wear gloves to protect your hands whilst working in the kitchen or garden.
** Use insect repellents to prevent bite on the affected arm / chest area.
** Protect your arm from sunburn, by covering it up in the sun, or using a sun lotion.
** If you cut or scratch your hand or arm, wash the area well and apply an antiseptic, as soon as you are able. Cover the wound with a plaster. If you notice the area becomes hot, red or swollen, inform your doctor, so that you can be given antibiotics if required.
TIP = try to keep an antiseptic lotion and antibacterial hand wash gel in your bag and/or car so that if you cut or scratch yourself while out of the house, you can quickly clean and sanitize the area.
Reviewed: March 2015