Cancer Truth Note: #72
Breast Cancer Survivors: NEVER have a blood draw, IV, vaccine, or blood pressure check on a limb where lymph nodes have been removed. NEVER, for any reason.
This is one of those areas that just never needs to happen. NEVER. Here are the facts. This has not been found to cause lymphedema if you do not have it. However, this condition is generally under-diagnosed. This means if you do not know you have lymphedema, one of these procedures can worsen a subclinical or mild case of lymphedema or cause cellulitis.
It is common for phlebotomists to question whether they can use my left arm. The answer is always no. I had lymph nodes removed. My lymphatic system is impaired. There is zero reason to use that arm. Period. I also wear a medic alert bracelet that states no needles in my left arm. Now if it were a life threatening situation that is different. In the normal course of non-emergency blood work and procedures the answer is always NO.
Unfortunately, words matter and there is confusion about the safety of these items for cancer survivors. Because it is not currently believed to cause lymphedema, it does not mean that an underlying condition will not be made worse. It is ok to tell nurses and doctors those facts. It is ok to say, I had lymph nodes removed, it is not ok to take blood, place an IV or give me a vaccination in that arm. As an alternative for vaccines, the thigh muscle is a great alternative. I know cancer survivors who have gotten their Covid-19 vaccines in their thigh because both arms have had lymph nodes removed. It was an easy alternative for a vaccination. You have a whole body, it is ok to take that arm off the table.
Have you experienced this? Did you advocate for yourself? Did you know you needed to advocate for yourself? Have more questions? Let me know in the comments.
Checkout the Podcast
Cancer Truth Note: #365 Seven years ago today I finished chemo. Then I learned that treatment is not the end of the journey. Surviving is JUST the beginning. I really thought, “GREAT. I am done with this part. I should be back to full strength in 3 weeks and be fine...
Cancer Truth Note: #364 Remember depression, anxiety, fear of recurrence, and other mental health challenges are common side effects for cancer survivors. These may show up more strongly as the days get shorter and colder here in the northern hemisphere. If you are...
Cancer Truth Note: #363 We don’t always see the impacts cancer treatments are having on us clearly, but most of the time if something is off you know it. Maybe tasks that were easy are now harder to process. Maybe your memory is not working like it used to. Maybe you...