Try to avoid infection

• Have your blood drawn, IVs and shots done in your unaffected arm, or somewhere else.

• Keep your hands and cuticles soft and moist.

• Keep your arm clean.

• Wear protective gloves when doing household chores that use chemical cleansers or steel wool when gardening or doing yard work, and perhaps while washing dishes.

• Wear a thimble when sewing.

• Use an electric shaver to remove underarm hair; it may be less likely to cut or irritate the skin.

• Use insect repellent to avoid bug bites when outdoors.

Try to avoid burns

• Protect your chest, shoulder and arm from sunburn.

• Use oven mitts that cover your arms.

• Avoid oil-splash burns from frying, and steam burns from microwaved foods or boiling liquids.

• Avoid high heat, such as from hot tubs and saunas. Do not use heating pads on the affected area.

Try to avoid constriction

• Wear loose jewelry, clothing and gloves. Avoid anything that forms a snug band around your arm or wrist.

• Avoid shoulder straps when carrying briefcases and purses.

• Wear a loose-fitting bra with padded straps that do not dig into your shoulder.

• Have your blood pressure taken on the unaffected arm. If both are affected it can be taken on your thigh.

• On long or frequent flights wear a compression sleeve.

Try to avoid muscle strain

• Use your affected arm as normally as you can. Once you are fully healed, about four to six weeks after surgery or radiation, you can begin to go back to activities you did before surgery.

• Exercise regularly, but try not to over-tire your shoulder and arm. Before doing any strenuous exercise talk with your doctor.

• If your arm starts to ache, lie down and raise it above the level of your heart.

• Use your unaffected arm, or both arms, as much as possible to carry heavy packages, groceries, handbags, or children.

• Try to avoid gaining weight.

For more information, visit the American Cancer Society at or the National Lymphedema Network at

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