Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of high-protein fluid just beneath the skin. This swelling, or edema, occurs most commonly in the arm or leg, but it also may occur in other parts of the body including the breast or trunk, head and neck, or genitals.
The swelling happens because lymph nodes, which normally act as filters, aren’t able to do their job as well because of :
- surgery that removes lymph nodes, or lymph node dissection
- radiation therapycancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to the lymph nodes
- an infection or inflammation that damages lymph vessels
- injury to the lymph nodes
Signs or symptoms of lymphedema to watch out for include: a full or heavy sensation in the limb(s), tightness of the skin or tissue, decreased flexibility in the hand/wrist/foot/ankle, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area, or ring/wristwatch/bracelet tightness. If you notice swelling in an area, call your physician. Even if the edema goes away—you could be experiencing an early sign of lymphedema. Early treatment minimizes the symptoms and can improve the outcome.
Portail santé mieux-être du governement du Québec
American Cancer Society
Understanding Lymphedema -- For Cancers Other Than Breast Cancer
National Cancer Institute
Facing forward : Life after cancer treatment - Ways to manage physical changes - Lymphedema or Swelling (page 24-25)
JAMA Oncology Patient Page
UptoDate (Advanced Readers)
Patient education materials in other formats
A Facebook page solely dedicated to inform about all things related to lymphedema – news, support groups, treatment centers, and much more.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre
Lymphedema : Understanding and Managing Lymphedema After Cancer Treatment. American Cancer Society, 2006. Available in Hope & Cope Library (Room No. E 730.1) of the Jewish General Hospital.