Thanks for your post.
While most people who have had lymph nodes under their arm removed don’t develop lymphoedema it can be confusing trying to work out how to reduce your risk.
Advice on this has changed a lot over recent years and studies have shown that exercise can lower the risk. You are more likely to increase your risk by overprotecting your arm and not using it enough.
If you have fully recovered from your treatment you should be able to get back to any activities you did before your surgery such as cutting the grass, although you may need to build up gradually. You don’t have to do the whole lawn in one go. If your arm aches and feels heavy, that would be a sign to slow down.
If you are gardening it is important to protect your skin against damage as any infection in your arm or hand can cause swelling, which may damage your lymphatic system leading to lymphoedema. It is also recommended that you keep your skin well moisturised to prevent it getting dry and cracked.
If you’re still stiff from surgery you should carry on with the arm and shoulder exercises you were given post-operatively.
There is evidence that being overweight can increase your risk of developing lymphoedema.
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Breast Cancer Care Nurse
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Thanks for posting your question.
We hope to be able to respond to you tomorrow.
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Ask Our Nurses
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Hi, I've read your v helpful online advice about lymphoedema but I'm still unsure about what amounts to over-doing things and the risk of lymphoedema and wondering if you can help? I had sentinel nodes removed (one +), plus radiotherapy to all the remaining nodes after mastectomy. The thing is, I have no one to help with heavy jobs like mowing the grass etc and am wondering if I should go to the expense of hiring a gardener (I've always disliked mowing and found it hard work anyway, but help would be pricey)? Is the basic principle that you can do stuff you used to do, and try new things too, but if it starts to make your affected side ache, then stop? It's confusing me because, for example, when you take up something like jogging for the first time, you expect your muscles to ache a bit afterwards because you've pushed your limit a bit but that's how you get stronger. Is the lymphoedema ache a different sort of ache, like more widespread and general, a sort of heavy, tight, dull ache all the time, not just muscle ache when you move your muscles? I hope this kind of makes some sense to you. I guess I'm just trying to get used to what is my 'new normal' for me, and watching the grass start to grow!