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Lymphedema can be a painful and frustrating side effect of breast cancer treatment. Too often patients suffer in silence and have few treatment options at their disposal.
While there’s no cure for lymphedema, our surgeons and certified lymphedema therapists can offer solutions to help you return to daily activities with less discomfort.
Lymphedema is a build-up of lymph fluid in the fatty tissue just under the skin. The condition results in swelling, usually in the arms and legs. It can occur when lymph nodes are removed or damaged during breast surgery or radiation treatment. Lymphedema prevents fluid from draining properly, which can cause discomfort, limited movement, and infections that return over and over again.
Lymphedema symptoms can begin months or even years after treatment. If you’ve had breast surgery or treatment, periodically examine your body in the mirror. If you notice changes in size, shape, or skin color of your arms or legs, seek treatment right away.
Signs and symptoms to watch for include:
Our breast cancer surgeons seek the least invasive treatment option to eliminate cancer -- and decrease uncomfortable side effects when possible. This includes procedures such as sentinel node biopsy. Surgeons remove fewer lymph nodes with this approach, which reduces the risk of lymphedema.
With proper lymphedema management, you can reduce swelling and control pain.
Options that can help you manage the condition include:
It’s unclear whether lymphedema is preventable. But there are steps you can take to lower your risk and reduce its impact.
Your body sends extra fluid and white blood cells throughout the body to fight infection. If lymph nodes are missing, it’s more difficult for the body to move this fluid.
Follow these hygiene and skin care tips to avoid infection:
Other ways to lower your lymphedema risk: