Cancer Truth Note: #70
If you have symptoms for Breast cancer related lymphedema (BCRL): Pain, Heaviness, Numbness, Tingling, Pins & Needles or Burning, Loss of Strength, Slow Healing Cuts/Scratches, Difficulty Doing Daily Tasks, you are at risk for serious skin infections.
Skin care is a primary concern when managing BCRL. The challenge is maybe you do not know that you have it. One sign may be slow healing cuts or scratches. Let me provide an example. One day, my pup in a crazy exuberate moment jumped up on me. I was wearing short sleeves and I was not wearing my lymphedema sleeve. I ended up with scratches down both arms. The scratches on the right arm were gone within hours. The left arm took TWO WEEKS!
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and if that system is impaired in an area of your body that area of your body may not have the same immune strength to heal. This can cause a scratch to fester and become an infection. If that infection is not treated the infection can spread and become life threatening.
This is why skin care is so important and slow healing cuts on your affected arm can be an indicator of BCRL. It is also important to know that while cuts and scratches should be covered to help them heal faster, if a skin infection starts compression should NOT be worn until the infection is cleared up. Continuing to wear compression over a skin infection can make the condition worse. So a visit to the doctor is required. If you see the area around a cut or scratch getting red, if it is hot to the touch, or the redness continues to spread out, head directly to your doctor. Those are signs of cellulitis.
This is definitely one of those areas no one told you about. It is also an area that is not readily understood when it comes to how to manage your lymphedema when you are managing a skin infection. If you notice slow to heal cuts on your affected arm treat them and keep a close eye on them. Notice how covered cuts heal and if necessary get screened for lymphedema.
Have you noticed changes to your immune system post cancer treatment? Questions about BCRL? Drop them in the comments.
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