A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure in which abnormal breast tissue, along with a small amount of normal tissue is removed. This procedure is sometimes referred to as breast-conserving surgery because only a portion of breast tissue is removed. Some patients experience lymphedema following surgery. This condition is characterized by swelling in the arm, hand or breast and is caused by the lymph system’s inability to properly drain lymph fluid. However, there are ways to reduce swelling caused by lymphedema.
Swelling after a lumpectomy is not unusual so you should be on the lookout for it. Lymphedema, the most common kind of swelling following this type of surgery may involve the breast, hand or arm. According to the USC University Hospital you are at an increased risk of both swelling and serious infection if your lumpectomy included having lymph nodes removed. Even though the swelling typically goes away within six to 12 weeks you should notify your physician just to make sure everything is normal. He may refer you to a physical therapist who can recommend specific techniques that can not only help reduce the swelling, but may help to increase strength and flexibility.
There are a number of activities you can do to help reduce the swelling following a lumpectomy. Start by raising the affected arm above the level of your heart for 45 minutes. Position your arm on a pillow with your elbow higher than your shoulder and your hand higher than your wrist. Repeat this procedure two to three time each day. Try to use your arms as you normally would as much as possible. Many patients can begin rehabilitation exercises the day after surgery while others may need to wait a few days before starting. You should always follow your physician or physical therapist’s instructions regarding when to begin specific exercises to reduce swelling and improve range of motion.
Surgery can be hard on the body’s ability to fight infection, and infection can exacerbate swelling, so it is important to do everything you can to stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet. Keep your body and clothing clean and wear protective gloves when doing house work or yard work. Wash any cuts or scraps with anti-bacterial soap. Avoid any situation that may cause burns or infections. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and jewelry that may inhibit circulation and increase swelling.