I'm bumping this thread to remind everyone how important it is to get baseline measurements taken before you have radiation. Radiation can cause or aggravate existing lymphedema, and you definitely want to know if there's been any change in your arm or trunk size that might indicate lymphedema. Without a baseline set, it may be more difficult to catch a developing case of lymphedema making it more of a challenge to reduce the fluid buildup than otherwise. In fact, it's a good idea to ask for a referral to a lymphedema therapist to get baseline measurements taken before you have any treatment at all so that you'll have a record of your before-treatment measurements for later comparison if the need arises. This is something that most doctors don't mention, but it's very important and can save people much discomfort and expense later on.
Incidentally, after I had a nasty experience with a staph infection this past spring, my breast surgeon told me that anyone who had nodes removed, sentinel or axillary but particularly axillary, should be watchful of any unusual redness, pain or swelling anywhere on your body. Once your lymphatic system is damaged somewhere, an infection that starts up far from the surgical site may be carried to the area where drainage isn't what it once was. When that happens, you can be in trouble in no time at all.
It's very important to keep your skin well lubricated. The staph infection I had probably resulted from a tiny crack in my skin that I didn't even notice. I had no idea that I needed to be THAT vigilant, but now I know better.
It's also a good idea to keep a tube of antibiotic ointment on hand so that you can smear some on any tiny little hurt as soon as you notice it in hopes of fending off any worse infection. One woman I know said that she keeps a tube of that at work since she often gets paper cuts. Her co-workers think she's just paranoid, but she said her breast surgeon told her that what's just an annoying paper cut for others could be disastrous for her.
Lymphedema can be managed if you catch it early. I'm extremely thankful that mine turned out to be mild because I had a rads oncologist who sent me for baseline measurements before I started treatment. When my lymphedema therapist compared my arm measurements, she said she suspected I already had lymphedema from the surgery. Further assessments indicated that was so, and I began massage therapy and wearing a compression sleeve right away.
As a result, my arm is very gradually reducing. My rads onc said recently that as long as I wear my sleeve all day every day for the foreseeable future, it's possible that I may reach a point when I'll only need it when doing anything strenuous or flying. It's annoying, but permanent damage is not something I care to have to deal with.
Lymphedema is serious stuff. I'm very grateful indeed that my treatment team informed me so well and referred me to massage therapy quickly so that lasting damage could be prevented.
<message edited by Her Dotness on Sunday, December 09, 2012 2:55 PM>
dx 11/29/10 DCIS/IDC
1/5/11 lumpectomy, SLND 2+, ALND -
T1c, clean margins!
er +/pr + (My little nasty was an estrogen drunk, said my med onc.) HER2 -
Chemo: TC Done 4/30/11
Rads: Done 6/30/11