Are You At Risk For Lymphedema?

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is fluid retention and tissue swelling in the arms that is caused by a compromised lymphatic system, usually from surgery or radiation. It is not fun. The arms can become swollen and painful. Treatment may include massage treatments by a specialist and the continuous wearing of a full compression sleeve. Once lymphedema occurs, it typically is an on-going issue.

Who is at risk?

Risk is really a matter of degree. The risk for breast cancer patients increases when a larger number of lymph nodes are removed and grows with additional surgeries. Lymphedema can be brought on by overzealous weight bearing, infections from scratches or bug bits, even needle punctures or blood pressure cuffs on the affected arm.

How can I prevent it?
-Avoid heavy lifting or repetitive stressful moves with your affected while recovering from treatment.
-Use sunscreen and insect repellant. Avoid heat and tight, binding clothing.
-Keep arms clean, moisturized and protected. Wear gloves and long sleeves while gardening.
-Return to exercise gently. Slowly build up your strength, tone and range of motion. Specialty Breast Cancer Yoga is recommended.

If your arm begins to swell, relax it on a pillow, with your elbow above your shoulder and your hand above your wrist. Contact a lymphedema massage therapist or your doctor right away.
By Marsha Mobley Kilian. Marsha provides breast cancer yoga classes and private sessions at Yoga for Living. Contact her at for a complementary consultation.

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