|Lymphedema Self Care Tip Sheet|
|Linda McGrath Boyle PT, DPT CLT-LANA|
|The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania|
| Last Modified: October 17, 2012
There are some things that you can do to help yourself. Lymphedema is swelling that sometimes occurs after cancer treatment. The swelling may occur in the chest wall, abdomen, arm, leg, foot or hand on the side or in the area that lymph nodes were removed. Surgery and radiation treatment increase your risk for lymphedema.
Monitoring for Infection
Infection is a serious concern for people with lymphedema. Signs that you may have an infection include:
If you develop any signs of infection, contact your physician or go to the nearest emergency room within 12 hours of these symptoms. Infection is a very serious concern. Do not wait to see if it improves!
What Can I Do to Prevent Problems?
Take Good Care of Your Skin
Do Not Constrict Your Arm / Leg
Maintain Your Ideal Weight
A Note About Exercise and Lifting Heavy Objects
Those at risk for lymphedema can and should exercise. Start with low intensity exercise and gradually increase intensity while monitoring for changes in your limb, including swelling or redness. If any swelling or redness occurs, stop the exercise and consult your physician. Any person at risk for lymphedema should consider wearing a compression garment with vigorous or very strenuous exercise.
Survivors were traditionally told to not lift anything heavier than 10 or 15 pounds. Research has found that women with lymphedema after breast cancer who lifted weights were stronger and experienced fewer flare-ups of their lymphedema than those who did not work out. Weight lifting should be done under the guidance of an experienced trainer and slowly progress from low levels of weight or resistance and increase after establishing that there is no worsening of lymphedema symptoms. This is important, as there will be a very small group of patients who do develop worsening symptoms. It is also important to note that these studies have not yet shown benefit for lower extremity edema.