Lymphedema Awareness and Breast Cancer

March is Lymphedema Awareness Month.  I deliberately posted this toward the end of the month because we all put Lymphedema at the end of the line in Breast Cancer.   As someone who lives with the realities and challenges of Lymphedema every day,  I am passionate about warning Breast Cancer Patients to PAY ATTENTION and get help and information about Lymphedema.  Make sure you have attended a Lymphedema Class and  arranged a consultation with a Lymphedema Therapist immediately after breast surgery.  Preventative actions, treatment and knowing what to look for can help your future in a big way.    

If you even have had one lymph node removed, you can get Lymphedema. Surgeons and Oncologists may tell you otherwise.  Do not listen to them!  I have had plenty of letters from women who had been told, “Don’t worry, you aren’t at risk for Lymphedema” by a physician and then BAM!  Lymphedema hits in full force.  Some women have gotten this condition with no nodes removed, but that is more rare.

At the very LEAST, your preventative measures should include 1)  Wearing a fitted compression sleeve when you fly in an airplane – even for short flights;  There is other information out in googleland to the contrary.  Do not listen to it.  I have met two women who have full-blown Lymphedema after a quick air flight.  One had been 20 years out of cancer treatment!   2)  When you are lifting heavy items or moving heavy items, make sure to wear a compression sleeve.   3)  Lots of repetitive motion like shoveling snow, sweeping, mopping could be cause to wear a compression sleeve.  Pretending Lymphedema cannot happen to you does not work!

I got full-blown Lymphedema after lifting three heavy plastic grocery bags with my “bad” arm.  And I had been to all the classes and visited a Lymphedema Therapist.  That is all it took to bring it on and cause me to wear a compression sleeve and gauntlet every day for the rest of my life.  Here is a previous blog post I wrote about Learning to Live with Lymphedema that gives more information:

The following 10 minute, professional video entitled, “Breast Cancer’s Dirty Little Secret”  does a wonderful job giving more information about Lymphedema.  It is definitely worth investing the 10 minutes to watch!





      • You are so welcome!

        I came across your blog fairly early after my ‘scared to death’ diagnosis and I read and read and read. LOL! Love your writing style and the TONS of information.

        Actually, the first thing I came to was your picture when I was looking for information about Chemo and how it works – I was terrirfied but you made it all sound less threatening and I had a great and continue to have great Chemo treatments – but I followed your advice – it rang in my head.

        The first place, the guy says to me, ‘once it spreads, I can’t do anything for you’. I don’t even know why he said it, but I was out the door looking for someone else – so glad I didn’t go there! My new doc is SO much more positive, and I know she won’t just give up in case things don’t turn out the way I’m expecting. I’m a stage 3a though I think just before they lopped off my boobs, there was evidence of the invasive kind of cancer around that breast. But they didn’t say it… and didn’t really give me a stage so who knows!

        And I can’t tell you how close I came to getting on a plane without a sleeve! Never was mentioned, didn’t occur to me. Adam and I were gonna fly to a conference he was attending until I realized it would have been this weekend (4th Chemo) – which we had first marked as end of chemo before the delay. So, I really have to thank you and wish you well. I’ll keep reading all these wonderful stories!

        So thanks for doing all this work! Well done and Thank you!
        Reggie 🙂

      • Reggie, thank you so much for your great comments! I am so glad you found a doctor that
        works for you! That is so important! You said it well!! Sometimes ignorance is bliss too!
        Oh I am so glad my blog has been helpful to you, especially Lymphedema advice!
        I felt like I was making my own path – I am so glad that path has helped you, Reggie!
        Keep going – it gets better!! Denise

      • Had to leave a PS – I had no idea you’d sent this in March. I’m new to WordPress and often can’t ‘see’ what I need to and so apologize profusely for the delay! I can barely figure stuff out there, but I learn a bit everyday. LOL! Reggie

  1. Hi Denise,
    Thanks for writing this. It’s appalling really, how little breast cancer patients are advised about this potential risk. Education is so vital. Thanks again.

    • It really is appalling, Nancy. Where I receive treatment it was mandatory that you attend a Lymphedema class BEFORE being released
      from the Breast Surgeon. But that is certainly not the case in the majority of medical facilities. I am passionate to get this
      word out there. Thanks for writing!

  2. It is so important to keep your skin healthy, to massage the arm(s) and to build up the condition of the skin to guard against infection from broken skin. Also, short plane flights are the WORST for lymphoma! Long-haul flights don’t often affect lymphodema as the aircraft is pressurised to “ground level.” It takes a lot of fuel to do this, so the planes that fly short distances don’t waste fuel to pressurise to the extent that the long-haul flights do.

    • You are so right, Michelle! Thanks for these reminders!
      Moisturizing the skin and preventing infection like cellulitis!
      I did not know that about airplane flights. Thanks for the info.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s