Test Your Lymphedema IQ

True or False?...

1.  The first sign of Lymphedema is swelling of the hand.

Trick question.  Answer: It can be. Other symptoms may occur including heaviness in the limb, tightness of jewelry or clothing, and sometimes skin changes.   

2.  If I don’t have symptoms within 2 years I am no longer at risk for developing lymphedema.

False – Unfortunately, once the lymph nodes have been affected they will not regenerate.  A person can go years after injury or treatment with no symptoms.  You should always take precautions with the affected limb since it will always be at risk of developing lymphedema.

3.  Because I only had radiation and chemotherapy, I won’t develop lymphedema.

False – Because the lymph nodes do not regenerate once they are damaged, radiation of the nodes is a factor in assessing risk.  Radiation scarring of the skin can damage initial lymph vessels, but at this time there is evidence that these vessels can return to function with time and treatment.

4.  Even though I only had a sentinel node biopsy I could still be at risk for lymphedema.

True – A sentinel node biopsy is less invasive and fewer lymph nodes will be removed. However, any damage done to the lymphatic system, including removal and/or radiation to the nodes can lead to risk of developing lymphedema.

5.  I had treatment and reduced the swelling so I no longer have to use compression.

False – It is best to continue to use a compression sleeve or stocking to maintain the fluid reduction, especially in air travel or heavy use of the limb (ie housework, strength training, gardening, etc.)

6.  Since my arm only swells periodically, and I can reverse it with elevation, there is no need to worry about lymphedema.

False – One of the risks of lymphedema is developing cellulitis, which is a life threatening infection.  You should be educated about lymphedema and infection signs and symptoms so you know when to contact your physician.