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Sep 3, 2006 04:01PM
Good for you for thinking of this before your trip -- not eveyone does.
To put this gently, our oncs and surgeons often don't have the straight story on lymphedema (LE), because they don't treat it (no drugs or surgery for LE -- it's all in the hands of LE therapists). So you've got at least one serious piece of misinformation here. That is, the bandages used for LE wrapping look a lot like ACE bandages, but they're something else altogether. They're called "short-stretch" and have a competely different action on your arm. When we wrap for LE it's only after thorough training by a well-qualified LE therapist, and it includes layers of gauze, stockinette, foam or other soft surface, and then graduated layers of short-stretch in a specific direction and with graduating tension. Definitely not something you want to get into. An ACE bandage could have the same effect as a blood pressure cuff, congesting the lymph flow from your arm and actually CAUSING lymphedema.
On the other hand, a well fitted sleeve and glove could spare you considerable grief. There's a list of prevention guidelines and air travel guidelines at the National Lymphedema Network site (click on "Position Papers):www.lymphnet.org
There's some controvesy over whether to be fitted for a compression sleeve and glove before flying, but if you do, be sure it's fitted by someone who has a lot of experience with lymphedema and fitting LE garments. (To be fair, most of us who have already developed LE don't find this controversial at all -- we recommend that you do everything in your power to prevent it.) Always wear a glove if you're wearing a sleeve, to prevent lymph fluid from getting "stuck" in your hand and making it swell. Some women who don't yet have LE choose to be fitted and just take the garments along, not wear them. That way if they develop problems, they're prepared and don't have to fret the trip home. If you get them, try them out before your trip. They can irritate the elbow crease and between the fingers when new -- cornstarch in those areas before putting them on may help. Wear them for an hour or so after landing before removeing them, giving your body time to acclimate.
Even light luggage can cause you problems if you jerk it around -- out of overhead bins, say, or off the luggage carousel. So be gentle to yourself and give crowds plenty of leeway to avoid bumbs and bruises. Avoiding insect bites makes a lot of sense, but some are probably inevitable. If you're bit, bruised, burned, nicked, or your skin is otherwise compromised, use a topical antibiotic cream to avoid infection, and keep a careful eye on it to make sure no swelling, undue pain, redness, or warmth to the touch develops. Any sign of infection should be treated promptly -- don't wait til you get home! Do avoid sunburn as well (and if you did rads remember the entire radiated area needs to be protected from the sun).
The trick is to tuck all this information away in your mind in such a way that it protects you but doesn't interfere with the fun and delight of your trip.
P.S. - You might want to print out the Lymphnet info, for your onc and surgeon