Some people develop a condition called lymphedema following breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Lymphedema happens when too much lymph builds up in an area of the body. Lymph is a clear fluid that circulates throughout the body to remove waste and bacteria from tissue. This fluid moves through blood vessels and lymph nodes. Surgery that removes two or more lymph nodes cuts off or damages the pathway for the lymph. As a result, the lymph can back up into nearby tissue. This causes lymphedema. Sometimes, radiation to the chest area and/or underarm can also damage the pathway and cause lymphedema.
Lymphedema can happen months or years after breast cancer treatment. Usually people develop lymphedema in the arm or hand. Sometimes it can occur in the breast, underarm, chest, trunk and/or back.
Lymphedema is not painful or life threatening. But it can cause severe swelling. It can also cause the tissue under the skin to permanently thicken or scar.
Specialists at ReVital can teach you about the risk factors for lymphedema. They can also help you learn how to prevent and manage lymphedema should it occur.
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