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Lymphedema is a condition in which swelling (edema) occurs from abnormal accumulation of protein-rich lymph fluid in the space between cells in the body, typically in the arms or legs.

UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has special programs for lymphedema management, treatment, and prevention.

Risk Factors for Lymphedema

Risk factors for lymphedema include:

  • Modified radical mastectomy
  • Surgical removal of lymph nodes
  • Radiation therapy
  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25
  • Overuse of the affected limb

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema

  • Swelling in your arm or leg
  • Numbness in an arm or leg
  • Heaviness or fullness in limb
  • Feeling of tightness when wearing rings, watches, bracelets, or clothing
  • Infection

Treating Lymphedema

While there is no cure for lymphedema, options for managing and treating include non-surgical and surgical options.

Non-surgical treatment options:

  • Weight loss
  • Compression pump therapy
  • Exercise
  • Compression garments (bandaging)

Surgical treatment options:

  • Lymphaticovenular bypass
  • Debulking surgery

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers a network of women's health physical therapists that specialize in lymphedema treatment and management.

Lymphedema Education, Screening, Early Detection, and Prevention (LESEP) Program

If your treatment plan for breast cancer includes surgery and/or radiation, your oncologist may refer you to the LESEP program to identify your risk for developing lymphedema.

Learn more about the LESEP program »

Cathy: Lymphedema Patient Story

Cathy has managed her lymphedema since she was 10 years old. She turned to UPMC for specialized comprehensive care. Read about her experience.

Read Cathy's Story