Lymphoedema and Altitute


Its been along time since I last read any of the discussions on this forum but have a question (BC treatment was in 2005/06).

For our holidays always go trekking/backpacking to remote parts of the world. We are planning our next trip at the moment and am a little cautious at investigating locations which involve trekking at high altitude (in excess of 5000m) in case I really want to go and can’t. Although I fortunately don’t suffer from Lymphoedema I do not want to either. Does anyone know if altitude can promote Lyphoedema or not or anywhere which may have some information on this subject?

Many thanks

Hi Nicola

I’ve googled ‘lymphoedema’ and "altitude’ ad most of what turns up is related to the risks involved with air travel. I did read somewhere that the pressure in aircraft is normally between that found between 5,000 and 8,000 feet, so if you you were to ascend higher than 5,000m the pressure would be even less, I imagine. You’d have to assume there’s a risk, I suppose.

(If you do decide to go, you could try to get a compression sleeve to wear prophylactically to minimise the risk)

Has anyone actually done any high altitude trekking after bc?

Good luck with your holiday plans!



Hi Nicola,

The helpline team might be able to help you with this one, if you would like to give them a ring. 0808 800 6000, lines are open Mon to Fri 9am - 5pm and Sat 9am - 2pm

Jo, Facilitator

Thank you for your comments - will try the help line.

Also I have a follow up meeting with my consultant in a couple of months so it will be on the discussion list. He normally just rolls his eyes and just does not know what to say about my holiday plans. Especially since I insisted on loads of scans and was over joyed to find out I broke three ribs as I was thinking it was something sinister. He just gives in now !!

Best wishes

Hi Nicola

In my experience, you can’t expect an oncologist to be very clued up on lymphoedema - there are a few exceptions, but they are few and far between.

A lymphoedema nurse/clinic or a fully qualified lymphoedema therapist (if you google ‘mld uk’ you should be able to find one) will probably be able to give you more advice.

Good luck




I have read something about altitude and lymphoedema recently and I’m pretty sure that altitude can in theory precipitate lymphoedema or make it worse if you have it (which I know you haven’t). I can’t think where I read it but I have discovered a new resource which has some good advice on avoiding lymphoedema if you are at risk. There is a whole leaflet just on air travel.

I think wearing a heavy rucksack could definitely cause problems - hopefully you would have porters and maybe even a friend/partner to carry some of your daysac contents? I have found walking poles are great as my arm is held up rather than ‘dangling’ and it is doing gentle rhythmical exercise which in theory should be good for it.

I have lymphoedema in my right arm and have just developed new truncal lymphoedema and celluitis. This came on 2 weeks after a fantastic mountain biking holiday in Spain. We stayed at 1700m and sometimes went up to 2300m when biking. Also I got scratches on my affected arm despite wearing my sleeve and the downhilling is quite hard on your arms.

I don’t know whether the holiday caused my latest exacerbation … but it is a possiblity. I don’t want to give it up though - it was such a great hol and I got such a great psychological boost from being able to do it - just like the ‘old days’ pre breast cancer.

Website is

It is a really hard decison for you about your holiday and I don’t think anyone will have the ‘right answer’. Good luck with whatever you decide.

love, Rowena


Just looked at that website again lymphnet. It is American. There is a ‘question corner’ and there is a question and answer on backpacking at altitude there which you might find helpful.

Best wishes,


My father lives in Ecuador’s capital (Quito) which is 2850m making it the second largest capital in the world. I have been out to visit him (before and after having lymphodema) and have suffered no ill effects from the altitude.

My biggest problem was feeling out of breath due to the lack of oxygen and feeling slightly nauseous.

Nicola - could you find out from a lymphodema nurse in your area what your risks might be?

Good luck!

I’d jst like to mention that I recently bought a really good fell runner backpack from macpac as it’s got an excellent hip belt allowing me to put almost all of the weight onto the hips (which you should anyway, days packs are rubbish things) they’re reduced in the sales at the moment so you could save a small fortune and save strain on your arms.

If you google for the following you’ll find the beast.

macpac amp race 25

It’s a one size fits all but in all honesty it’s a shorter back so is better suited to women than men. I’m 5 ft 6 and narrow build and it’s perfect which I never thought I’d say and as a pack it only weighs 850grams which can even be reduced to 600 grams so it’s not a burden to carry for just a few things either. I do wonder if wearing daysacks is a real risk for lympho myself. I would have thought so because of the shoulder straps restricting movement if they carry the weight.