Breast Cancer Survivors Can Take Planes

EDMONTON, Alberta, Aug. 23 (UPI) — A Canadian researcher says breast cancer survivors need not fear air travel because of fear of lymphedema — swelling in the arm.

Margie McNeely of the University of Alberta in Edmonton says women who’ve had breast cancer surgery where lymph nodes have been removed are often warned changes in airplane cabin pressure could trigger chronic swelling in the arm called lymphedema.


However, McNeely says 95 percent of these women will not have any arm swelling.

McNeely, Sharon Kilbreath of the University of Sydney in Australia and colleagues conducted a study that found 5 percent of women with lymph nodes removed developed any arm swelling when flying. Of these four women, three were back to normal when tested six weeks after the flight and one woman was found at possible risk for chronic swelling.

The study included 60 Canadian breast cancer survivors flying to Australia to attend a festival and 12 women coming to the festival from different areas of Australia.

Tests were made of both arms — both when leaving and upon arrival — using a device that detected subtle fluid difference changes between the unaffected arm and the one from which lymph nodes were removed.

The study is published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

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