Mastectomy: Is it safe to have blood pressure taken on the side of surgery?

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Mastectomy: Is it safe to have blood pressure taken on the side of surgery?

Question

I've had a mastectomy, and I'm wondering if I can have blood pressure readings taken on the arm affected by surgery?

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Answer

It depends on the type of mastectomy you've had. At one time, the only breast cancer surgery was radical mastectomy — in which the surgeon removed the breast, the underlying chest muscles and all of the lymph nodes under the arm. In such cases, arm swelling (lymphedema) was a serious concern. Women who had radical mastectomies were warned to avoid constriction of the affected arm to prevent lymphedema.

Treatment of breast cancer now typically involves a modified mastectomy, which removes only the sentinel lymph nodes — those closest to the cancer. Lymphedema of the arm is uncommon in women who have had this type of surgery. If swelling does occur, it's typically mild and short-term, resolving within a year after surgery. As a result, constriction of the arm is unlikely to cause swelling.

If you have only had your sentinel nodes removed, it is safe to have blood pressure readings taken — as well as blood drawn — on the side of the surgery. However, it's better to use the unaffected arm when possible.

Last Updated: 09/30/2005
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