If you've had or are going to have cancer surgery, ask your doctor whether your procedure will involve your lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Ask if your radiation treatment will be aimed at lymph nodes, so you'll be aware of the possible risks.

To reduce your risk of lymphedema, try to:

  • Protect your arm or leg. Avoid injury to your affected limb. Cuts, scrapes and burns can invite infection. Protect yourself from sharp objects. For example, shave with an electric razor, wear gloves when you garden or cook, and use a thimble when you sew. If possible, avoid medical procedures, such as blood draws and vaccinations, in your affected limb.
  • Rest your arm or leg while recovering. After cancer treatment, exercise and stretching are encouraged. But avoid strenuous activity until you've recovered from surgery or radiation.
  • Avoid heat on your arm or leg. Don't apply ice or heat, such as with a heating pad, to your affected limb. Also, protect your affected limb from extreme cold.
  • Elevate your arm or leg. Whenever possible, elevate your affected limb above the level of your heart.
  • Avoid tight clothing. Avoid anything that could constrict your arm or leg, such as tightfitting clothing and, in the case of your arm, blood pressure cuffs. Ask that your blood pressure be taken in your other arm.
  • Keep your arm or leg clean. Make skin and nail care high priorities. Inspect the skin on your arm or leg daily, watching for changes or breaks in your skin that could lead to infection. Don't go barefoot.
Oct. 23, 2014

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