Early Detection is Key

Because lymphedema can occur years after surgery, it’s important to be aware of the area where the lymph nodes were removed or radiated, according to Sheila Ridner, chairwoman of the National Lymphedema Network Research Committee and a nursing professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Watch for any break in the skin that could cause infection, including such simple things as an insect bite or a cuticle cut, she advises. Take precautions against breaks in the skin or cutting off circulation, and use antibiotic ointment on even the smallest break in the skin. Should the affected limb begin to feel tight or full, contact a lymphedema clinic or healthcare provider immediately.

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