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danger of lymphedema

Posted Feb 22 2010 12:00am

With the last couple of weeks I have been experiencing some swelling that has been increasing in my feet and hands–part of Taxol® toxicity. I am a bit obsessed with my left hand and arm, however, because I suspect that lymphedema is setting in. My left hand has been swollen a lot more than my right hand, and it is not returning to normal, as are my right hand and both feet. After sitting up all day working at the computer, my feet were like balloons, and both hands were also quite swollen, with the left being the worse of the two.

Over the weekend I took breaks and lay down with my feet raised higher than my heart and the same with my hands. At night I am careful to lie so that my left arm and hand are higher than my heart. It seems to help quite a bit as I wake up with my feet and right hand back to a normal size. When I stay up without taking a break to lie down, however, I notice the swelling gets pretty intense. I am only concerned about my left arm, the one with the missing lymph nodes, which is in danger of developing lymphedema.

From what I have read about lymphedema, it is not possible to get rid of it after you get it, though I understand that the combination of moderate weight lifting with the compression sleeve can he. A treatment plan that includes several therapies, e.g. massage, compression, exercise, is called complete or complex decongestant therapy (CDT).

I will need to do some homework and, of course, talk with my oncologist.

Weight lifting in women with breast-cancer-related lymphedema, Kathryn H. Smith, PhD, MPH, et al, New England Journal of Medicine, 8/13/09

National Lymphedema Network

What every woman with breast cancer should know: American Cancer Society

Arm lymphedema: breastcancer.org

General information about lymphedema: National Cancer Institute

Lymphedema: Mayo Clinic

Lymphedema: VascularWeb

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