Understanding 

Lymphedema

What is the Lymphatic System?

 

The basics:

Our bodies have a network of lymph nodes and lymph vessels. This system collects and carries a watery, clear lymph fluid, much like how veins collect blood from distant parts of the body and carry it back to the heart.  This fluid consists of proteins, salts, and water, as well as white blood cells, which help fight infection.

 

The Causes:

Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of, or damage to, your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatments. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling.

 

According to the National Cancer Institute, anywhere from 5-17% of women who have sentinel lymph node biopsy develop lymphedema. Among women who have axillary lymph node dissection, the percentage is higher — from 20-53% — and the risk increases with the number of nodes taken out.  Not surprisingly the risk is even higher if you receive radiation to the breast, chest, and under the arm area.

Tips on Prevention:

  • Avoid tight clothing and jewelry on the arm and wrists

  • Avoid cutting your cuticles

  • Use insect repellent when outdoors

  • Avoid sunburn and excessive amounts of heat from saunas and baths

  • Avoid having IV's or blood pressure takin in the at-risk arm. You can order a  medical ID bracelet  to help healthcare professionals know not to use that arm. 

  • When starting to exercise and lift weights, start slowly and increase weight gradually. 

  • Some people suggest wearing a compression sleeve when traveling on air planes or carrying a lot of heavy luggage. 

  • Check out our Blog (below) on lymphedema

We have partnered with Lympediva's to offer stylish compression sleeves. 

All proceeds from the sales go directly to Survivingbreastcancer.org so that we can continue our mission to empower those diagnosed with breast cancer and their caregivers every step of the way.

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