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Lymphedema - Friday, February 27, 2009 12:26 PM
I just wanted to get things started here on this thread because of the many survivors who have to deal with this issue.  Lymphedema is the back-up of fluid in your arm or trunk due to the removal of one or more lymph nodes.  Even if you just had 1 or 2 nodes taken, this interrupts flow of lymph fluid from arm and trunk.  It can be very subtle like a fullness in your chest wall, or a tingling in your armpit, or you can have swelling and warmth in your affected arm. 

It is very important to minimize the swelling or prevent it from returning as much as possible.  When the tissues fill with fluid it can be very hard to get that fluid back out of the area. There are specialists in physical therapy who can help redirect and massage the fluid in the right direction.  Sleeves can be worn, but MUST be fitted to YOU, to be effective.  No drug store varieties will do.

Care must be taken to keep the arm/area moisturized to prevent any little cracks or open areas which would let in infection.  If an infection occurs you may get even more swelling and thus have more fluid to move out.  The slightest injury can be a big problem even if it never is infected.  The inflammatory process sends lymph into the area to clear debris.  If there's no place for that to go, you have a breeding ground for infection.

I have been dealing with lymphedema for over a year since I had shoulder surgery.  I had to do the surgery, but was not prepared for the enduring swelling in my arm.  I finally developed a strep infection from an unknown source in that arm and trunk and was very seriously ill for several days.  Hopsitalized, PICC line antibiotics, the big guns!  I am recuperating well, but am getting outta town for the warmth of Fla.  I have to take extra antibiotics (by mouth) with me in case it flares again.  My oncologist told me this will not be the last time this happens.  I am more careful now, but it can be anything, anytime.  Be vigilant and careful
Love Ruth

Diag. 7/06 2 lumpectomies, no clear margins
Inflammatory BC, DCIS and IDC
Chemo Aug 06-Dec 06
bilat mast 1/07
Radiation 2/07-4/07
Tried all AIs (ER/PR +, Her2 -) 
NED thus far, have RA now

Cancer is like quicksand, the more you struggle alone, the deeper you sink; but if you relax, spread yourself out and reach for help you are rescued! (rufus mcaine)

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