Upper extremity lymphedema involves swelling, pain and infection in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders or chest brought on by damage to, or removal of, lymph nodes in the upper part of the body.
Lymph nodes remove materials that might be harmful, such as bacteria, before the lymphatic fluid enters the bloodstream. When the lymph nodes are damaged or removed, lymphatic fluid may build up, causing swelling and other problems.
Lymphedema can be caused by breast cancer treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies.
1. Swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders and chest
2. Tight skin in the swollen area
3. A heavy, full feeling in the swollen area
4. Less flexibility in the arm, wrist or shoulder
1. Care of the skin: Keep the skin clean and moisturized.
2. Massage: manual lymph drainage massage and myofascial release (also known as soft-tissue mobilization) can help drain fluids and increase comfort.
4. Exercise: special stretching exercises can help move lymphatic fluid.
5. Bandaging: a method of bandaging that may be taught to the patient to help apply pressure and drain fluid.
6. Compression clothing: Gloves and/or sleeves, much like support stockings, move the fluid and prevent further buildup.
7. If lymphedema is caused by infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Adapted from MD Anderson Cancer Center. Upper extremity lymphedema and cancer . Internet. Accessed on November 13, 2010.