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If you’ve had lymph nodes near your armpit removed or radiation to this area, you may experience a stiffness and swelling in your arm. This condition is known as lymphedema. Occasionally, it also comes with infection and pain. Up to 56 per cent of women may experience arm lymphedema at two years post surgery. Talk to your doctor or nurse about exercises to help treat your lymphedema.

Tips that may help reduce the risk of lymphedema or manage lymphedema:

  • Avoid burns, including sunburns.

  • When getting your blood pressure reading or having your blood drawn, ask your health care professional to do it in the unaffected arm.

  • Use an electric razor, not a disposable shaver, to shave your underarms.

  • Don’t put pressure on the arm and avoid carrying a purse on the treated side.

  • Avoid carrying heavy items on the affected area.

  • Talk to your health care team if you develop swelling, redness or signs of infection.


Chemotherapy can reduce the levels of white blood cells that your body makes. This condition is called neutropenia and it can lead to a higher risk of infection. For this reason, your doctor will check your white blood cell count every time you have a blood test.