Bp queery

Can I have my bp taken in my arm If I had only some nodes removed as opposed to a full node clearance ,

Don’t risk it. From someone who has lymphoedema its not worth it. You can use your other arm or a leg if necessary.

Don’t use it for blood tests either and if you get a cut or scratch make sure to clean it and use an antiseptic cream immediately.

Hi Megan7

I’ve only had one SNB taken and I’ve been advised that my affected arm shouldn’t be used. I’m actually in full agreement with this as for some time I had a mildly oedematous breast ( which I hadn’t realised was oedematous/ abnormal as my breast was changing shape following surgery and was a bit red after radiotherapy )then later a burning pain into my axilla and down my arm which turned out to be caused by a an oil cyst and lasted for some time. I was told I that these things gave me an increased risk of lymphoedema , though I didn’t get it.

My point is that you don’t necessarily know what’s going on in there and it’s best not to risk it as ANY node surgery carries some risk of lymphoedema. If you are having radiotherapy that can also increase the risk .

It’s particularly important not to have your BP taken on the affected side during surgery as they take it every 3-5 minutes , not just once. Also no routine blood tests or cannulation or injections and certainly no vaccinations on that side. You may have to be firm and pre- empt any attempts by any medical professional or vaccinator (especially those who do not know your history) to approach your affected arm.


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Hi Megan, I was told, “No BP/IV/Needles” by the nurse at my pre op. She was quite adamant about it, she said she did not want me to run the risk of lymphoedema. I wear a Medi Alert bracelet because I am allergic to penicillin and have added the above information for my left arm. In the past blood pressure has even been taken from a cuff round my ankle. Better to be safe than sorry as the saying goes. Good luck. Take care.

Hello megan7

Thanks for posting asking about having a blood pressure reading taken on the side where you had lymph nodes removed.

The concern about this has been about lymphoedema.Lymphoedema is swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues of the body.This can happen as a result of damage to the lymphatic system following surgery and/or radiotherapy to the breast or armpit (axilla). Sometimes it can be caused by cancer cells in the lymph system or when having chemotherapy. Other risk factors include being overweight and infection in the arm or hand.

It’s not clear why some people develop lymphoedema and others do not but lymphoedema can develop soon after treatment or may occur many years later. The risk is greatest for those who have both surgery and radiotherapy to the axilla (armpit) as @JoanneN says. People who have had a sentinel lymph node biopsy only, have a reduced risk of developing lymphoedema compared to people who have had a number of lymph nodes removed.

Symptoms of lymphoedema include swelling in the arm, hand, fingers, breast, or chest wall on the side of the body where you had your surgery or radiotherapy. The arm can feel tight and uncomfortable, and the skin can become dry.

There are ways in which to help reduce the risk of lymphoedema developing. Try to use your arm normally. You’re more likely to increase your risk of lymphoedema by overly protecting your arm and not using it enough. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising (as able) will reduce the burden on the lymphatic system. Infection in your ‘at risk’ arm can cause swelling and may damage the lymphatic system leading to lymphoedema. Tips on how to help reduce the risk of infection can be found in the link above.

It’s important to keep the skin clean and well moisturised to reduce the risk of skin damage and infection.

There’s no strong evidence that having injections, taking blood, taking a blood pressure reading or having intravenous fluids in your ‘at risk’ arm will cause lymphoedema. This is included in NICE guidelines

However, you may prefer to use your other arm and some treatment teams will suggest avoiding the at-risk arm as @sunshine was told. It might help to speak to your treatment team to see what they advise.

If you have any symptoms that sound like lymphoedema tell your breast care nurse. one of your treatment team, or your GP as soon as possible. The more time passes, the more likely it is that lymph will build up in the tissue that may cause more problems.

Jen Mckenzie is a breast cancer physio who specialises in lymphoedema management and has produced some videos which you may find helpful.

Do call our helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. The helpline team have time to listen to your concerns, talk things through and signpost you to more support and information. Your call will be confidential, and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks. The number is 0808 800 6000, (Relay UK -prefix 18001).

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Best wishes


Breast Care Nurse

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