Lymphoedema cannot be prevented. However, identifying the signs of lymphoedema early and starting appropriate treatment can help. Early signs of lymphoedema to look out for include:
- a feeling of ‘heaviness’, ‘tightness’ or ‘tension’ in the arm or breast
- swelling of the arm, breast or hand (dents may appear in your skin after wearing tight clothing or jewellery, or rings, bracelets or watches may feel tighter than usual)
- aching of the arm, hand, chest or breast area.
Some of these early signs may come and go. If one or more of the changes above develop, it doesn’t necessarily mean that lymphoedema will develop. Some changes are not caused by lymphoedema but are side effects of surgery or radiotherapy. These include reduced range of movement, loss of muscle strength, changes in sensation and tingling in the arm or fingers.
Women should tell their GP or breast care nurse promptly about any changes that develop after the initial side effects of treatment have passed.