Lymphedema and air travel
Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Two years ago I had a masectomy and a sentinal node biopsy which removed 7 lymph nodes. I am planning a trip in a few months and will be on a plane for 20 hours. Does this trip increase my chances of lyphedema? Are there any precautions I should take?
Lora Packel MS, PT, Coordinator of Cancer Therapy Services for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
There is scant literature to determine the actual risk of developing lymphedema during extended air travel. It may be of benefit to meet with a lymphedema specialist to discuss a compression sleeve since your travel is > 20 hours.
Other recommendations to follow during air travel:
- Use light suitcases with wheels
- Use your unaffected arm to carry luggage
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes
- Get up frequently during the flight
- Perform simple arm and leg exercises during the flight
- Avoid salty airplane food! Order special items or carry low-salt snacks
When you reach your destination:
- Use sunblock to avoid sunburn
- Use citronella candles to help avoid insect bites
- Wear foot covering on the beach