Lymphoedema – The Facts
What is Lymphoedema?
It is tissue fluid that develops as a result of drainage to the lymphatic system. For people affected by breast cancer who have had one or more lymph nodes removed, this swelling may occur in the breast or the arm area.
How likely is it that you will develop lymphoedema?
Current research shows that one in five women with breast cancer will develop lymphoedema in their lifetime. The swelling is likely to happen in the first one to two years following breast surgery.
What are the factors affect this?
Being overweight, infections in breast or armpit area, repetitive arm movements such as ironing
How do you know if you have lymphoedema?
Perhaps tightness, heaviness, puffiness that is not just weight gain. If you have any signs, speak to your breast care nurse.
It is not life threatening and you are invited to live as well as possible and there are suggestions as to how to do this.
What is the role of Exercise and a Healthy Lifestyle?
Regular exercise can help protect you against lymphoedema. This includes lifting weights. Gradually increasing levels of exercise over time is the best and safest way to do this.
You can also help yourself by living healthily, pacing your activities, looking after your skin against the risk of infection, lose weight or maintain a healthy weight so that you can minimise the risk of fat causing you to develop swelling.
There is no evidence for air travel leading to the development or exacerbation of lymphoedema. There is no evidence that the wearing of a sleeve on an aeroplane will prevent lymphoedema. If you already having aching or heaviness, then consult your healthcare professional. If you are going somewhere hot, there is no evidence that you will develop of swelling from being in the heat or the sun, with the exception of sauna use.
Having your blood pressure taken or having an injection is generally safe but not without risk.
Manual lymphatic drainage done by lymphoedema professionals may help but the outcomes are not conclusive.
Organise your workspace well so that your equipment is not too close to you and give yourselves regular breaks.
What is the exercise sequence that the Haven provides for?
The exercise programme, which takes less than 10 minutes, is for people who want to do something to bridge from post operative exercises to get back to normal regular exercises. These exercises are a sequence of nine movements that, done in order, will help keep the lymphatic channels open and lymph moving naturally around the body.