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For breast cancer survivors and others at risk, the standard advice for preventing lymphedema boils down to one very general theme: avoid injury or irritation to the limb(s) most likely to be affected.
The human body reacts to injury by producing fluid. In an individual whose lymphatic system has been compromised by surgery and/or radiation, this fluid cannot travel unimpeded and instead becomes mired in surrounding tissues. The end result is lymphedema.
Here, in the form of â€śdos and do notsâ€ť, are the most commonly cited guidelines for protecting at-risk limb(s) from this disorder. While there is no hard scientific proof that these steps will prevent lymphedema, there is a good bit of anecdotal evidence which indicates that observing these guidelines may indeed lower the risk.
Since the upper limbs are at risk with breast cancer survivors, these guidelines are focused primarily on protecting the arms.
Finally, DO notify your physician if you see signs of lymphedema developing. If detect any sign of infection, call immediately.
The Content on this page was reviewed for accuracy by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.