Dec 17, 2008 12:05AM LindaLou53 wrote:
Hi Lisa, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but yes a sauna can increase your risk of developing lymphedema if you have already had node removal. The problem is that our lymphatic system is a finely tuned system operating under a very delicate balance. Once you have had surgical removal of lymph nodes or tissue damage from radiation, that delicate balance can be very easily upset by the smallest of factors.
Any process that increases the flow of lymph fluid in the affected body part, can cause a damaged lymph system to reach its maximum transport capacity. Once that limit is breached, lymph fluid begins to seep into the tissue causing swelling and extracellular tissue changes that can become permanent.
Things that cause increased lymph fluid production are heat, inflammation, infection, and over-exercise. A sauna or jacuzzi which raises the body temperature several degrees causes increased circulation and increased lymph production. Does that mean absolutely that you will trigger lymphedema by using a sauna or jacuzzi? No, not necessarily, but we never know what our individual capacity is. Some persons who have had multiple nodes removed may never show signs of lymphedema for years, but others with just a single node removed or even just a prophylactic mastectomy may still develop lymphedema.
For this reason there are specific precautions recommended to help reduce our risk of developing lymphedema once our lymphatic system has been compromised by surgery or radiation. You can read the NLN Position Papers on risk reduction and exercise at this link:
Just check the lower portion of the right hand column to find links to the position papers.
Hope this helps!