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Patient Education (8a) Lymphedema




A problem that may arise after surgery is swelling of the arm on the side of the mastectomy. This condition is referred to as LYMPHEDEMA and is caused by the loss of the underarm lymph nodes and their connecting vessels. Because the lymph nodes have been removed, circulation of lymph fluid is slowed, making it harder for your body to fight infection. You should take special care of your arm to prevent infection. (If you had both breasts removed, ask your doctor about any special precautions). The following are some simple precautions to follow:

  • Avoid burns while cooking or smoking.
  • Avoid sunburns.
  • Have all injection, vaccinations, blood samples, and blood pressure tests done on the other arm whenever possible.
  • Use an electric razor with a narrow head for underarm shaving to reduce the risk of nicks or scratches.
  • Carry heavy packages or handbags with the other arm.
  • Wash cuts promptly, treat them with antibacterial medication, and cover them with a sterile dressing; check often for redness, soreness, or other signs of infection
  • Wear watches or jewelry loosely, if at all, on the operated arm.
  • Wear protective gloves when gardening and when using strong detergents, etc.
  • Use a thimble when sewing.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive compounds.
  • Use insect repellent to avoid bites and sting.
  • Avoid elastic cuffs on blouses and nightgowns.
  • Though you should be cautious, it’s important to use your arm normally—don’t favor it or keep it dependent.

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