Lymphedema is a word that is either feared or unknown. Learning about lymphedema helps to lessen the fear of the unknown. Learning about lymphedema is the first step you need to prevent it.
Secondary lymphedema may be prevented or delayed in the following ways:
- Know if you are at risk – read more about lymphedema risk factors.
- Take steps everyday to reduce your risk.
- Look for the early signs of lymphedema.
Who is at risk for secondary lymphedema?
- Some cancer patients and survivors.
- People who have had surgery and/or radiation involving lymph nodes.
- People who have had an accident or injury.
- People who have had a major burn.
Lymphedema affects all ages and may occur years, even decades, after cancer treatment or trauma. For cancer survivors, the biggest risk of lymphedema follows treatment for breast, prostate or cervical cancer or melanoma. You are at risk if you have had surgery to remove lymph nodes and/or radiation therapy. Ask your healthcare provider if you are at risk.
What can I do to reduce my risk of getting secondary lymphedema?
- Take care of your skin to limit entry points for germs or infection.
- Use a pH balanced skin moisturizer.
- Use insect repellant when the bugs are out.
- Clean and apply antibiotic cream to any cuts, scratches or grazes right away.
- Keep your nails and cuticles clean and cared for; do not cut your cuticles or chew or pick at your cuticles or nails.
- Protect your hands and arms when you garden or take something hot from the oven.o Use high factor sunscreen and avoid sunburn.
- If you need to have an injection, blood work or blood pressure check, inform the healthcare provider that you are at risk for lymphedema.
- Watch your weight. A healthy weight can reduce your lymphedema risk.
- Deep breathing and moderate exercise, ideally every day, help to get your heart rate up, blood pumping and lymph flowing.
- Learn more about lymphedema, how to prevent it and what its early signs are.
What are the early signs of lymphedema?
- A full or heavy feeling in the affected area.
- A numb, achy or stiff feeling in the affected area.
- A feeling of tightness in the skin.
- Less movement or flexibility in the affected area.
- Trouble fitting into clothing or jewellery or shoes in the affected area.
- An unusual swelling in the affected area.
Listen to your body and look out for the early signs of lymphedema. If you think you may have secondary lymphedema, see a doctor or your healthcare team. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are vital to manage lymphedema and offer you the best health outcomes. Read on to learn about lymphedema treatment options