Dear seven7: The first concern is making certain that there is no infection in that arm. Is is red or warm to touch? If it is painful, you might consider having your physician take a look at it. He/she can make certain that there is no infection and may prescribe a compression sleeve. In general, household chores are fine. However, if you have a recent acute injury, the doctor may be better equipped to provide more specific recommendations. If it does turn out to be lymphedema without infection, then various interventions such as progressive massage, compression and elevation may be appropriate.
Physical activity is actually good for it; there's no special restriction. It might or might not be necessary to get fitted for a compression sleeve; also, when you're not up and around, elevating the arm on a pillow or something similar can help. Massage, starting from the wrist and working up, can be useful. The other issue is being sure there's nothing going on in the axilla: edema can show up more or less anytime, and it almost never signifies anything bad, other than the edema itself. But it's still a good idea, in my opinion anyway, to have your surgeon give you an exam.
To Surgeon:I had all of my CT scans, bone scans and an xray in April, and have had my chest and underarm examined. I was told all was OK there. Seven
Did you have any reconstruction done? Was it prior to or after Radiation Treatment
Sounds like lymphedema. I had no problems for 2 1/2 years after my surgery in 1998 for bc. Then, when I stopped exercising regularly in 2001, I developed lymphedema starting with swelling in my hand and gradually working its way up. It was amazing some of the advice I was given from various doctors - "go home and put heat on it", "oh, that's nothing, don't worry about it" and "what lymphedema?". Finally, after much research and pushing for proper treatment, I was able to go to a lymphedema clinic where they confirmed that I did, indeed, have early stage lymphedema. Like you, the skin hurt to touch along with the swelling. My husband and I were taught how to do MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) massage and I used a lymphapress pump for a few months to give additional help in reducing the swelling. Now I am able to go without compression garments most of the time but I do have to keep a close eye on my arm for further swelling. Water aerobics is a great form of exercise to help keep down the swelling as it puts light pressure against your body to increase the flow of fluids. In fact, the lymphedema therapist told me that scuba diving is great therapy! I also work out with weights but am very careful not to overdue the exercise which will aggravate the situation. Be sure to wear a compression garment if you fly since that can really aggravate the condition. I've found that with lymphedema you really have to take charge of your treatment, do a lot of research and INSIST on getting the proper treatment. It can be kept under control when treated early and aggressively but too many doctors brush it aside and then a bad situation only gets worse and harder to control.
I did not have reconstruction, even though my other breast is very large, about a 38 or 40 D. I wear a prothesis in my bra .(It was very expensive, 250.00 dollars) The swelling was after the 33 radiations, but about 14 months after they were completed.
I thought I got by without lymphedema, but guess not. It is not very bad, but I do not want it to get worse!
I might add that I am 70 years old, but a very active senior!
MY husband and I recently returned from a tour of South Africa. I do not let my condition get me down. But I pray that I have no recurrance! And that others who write also have no recurrance. Best Wishes to you, Seven