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Does the risk of lymphedema remain for a lifetime after treatment for BC, even if a radical mastectomy was not done? There seems to be conflicting information out there.

Posted: 06 Oct 2008 01:58 PM
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I do agree the literature that is being published can be conflicting with regards to this question. Since you have had lymph nodes removed Physical Therapy at UTMDACC would caution you to be observant for the signs and symptoms of lymphedema throughout your lifetime. We believe that if individuals follow a few simple steps each day they can be proactive in recognizing the early onsets of the condition. Individuals that have been treated in the early stage of lymphedema development have had excellent results.

The steps that we instruct our clients to follow are as follows:

     1. Each day take a few seconds to look at your arm and chest area:

         clinch your hands and look at the back of them . Can you see all your knuckles? Can you see your veins? If no, you may be retaining some fluid.

         bend both elbows and look at them in the mirror. Do you see one elbow joint clearly and the other one less defined? Are you seeing puffiness on the inside of the elbow? If yes, you may be retaining some fluid.

         look at your chest area both  front and back. Are you noticing puffiness of the area under your arm or in the area that is above the bra line?   If yes, you may be retaining some fluid.

2. Never ignore signs of early onset of fluid collection.

         the feeling of heaviness, aching, or pins and needles while performing activities with the involved arm. You may begin feeling these symptoms when you are retaining fluid even before you or a therapist can measure or see it. By receiving intervention at this time the condition is considered to be reversible.

    3. Lastly follow the skin care and activities precautions that we give to all our lymphedema patients.

         Meticulous skin care and moisturizing to avoid infection.

         Maintain the negative pH of your skin.

         Stay well hydrated.

         Moderate weight gain.

         Avoid skin exposure to excessive heat including ambient heat, heating pads, hot tub/showers, etc.

         Stay active to within your limits.

         Avoid excessive fatigue while carrying out activities of daily living.

         Avoid trauma to the affected limb. If you develop cuts or blisters cleanse and apply antibiotic ointment to avoid infections.

         Take frequent rest breaks when travelling long distances in the car. Perform gentle ankle pumps and engage in diaphragmatic breathing. Stay well hydrated.

         While flying avoid eating salty products, stay well hydrated with water, and perform active movements of the arm, gentle ankle pumps and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

Posted: 08 Oct 2008 11:28 AM
Originally Posted: 08 Oct 2008 10:56 AM
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