Lymphedema occurs when fluid builds up in the fatty tissues just under your skin. The most common causes of lymphedema include surgery, trauma, radiation or infection. During surgery for breast cancer, lymph nodes may be taken from under from under your arm to determine if cancer has spread. The removal of lymph nodes includes also removing lymph vessels that carry fluid from the arm to the rest of the body because they’re wrapped around the nodes. This procedure changes the flow of lymph fluid in a certain part of your body. If the remaining lymph vessels are unable to drain enough fluid from parts of the body, it can cause fluid to build up which, in turn, causes swelling, or lymphedema.
Lymphedema may develop right away or months to years later. In many cases, signs of lymphedema in the arm or leg include:
• A full or heavy feeling in part of your body
• Aching or discomfort
• Swelling in the breast, chest, arm, hand, or shoulder
• A change in skin texture, such as hardening or thickening
• Restricted range of movement
• Tight, shiny or red skin
• Less flexibility in your joints
• Aching, tinging or discomfort in certain parts of the body
• Lack of indentation in the skin when pressed
• Your watch, ring or bracelet feeling tight without weight gain
It’s possible for any woman to get lymphedema if their lymph nodes are affected by breast cancer treatment. However, women who are most at risk for lymphedema are those who have many lymph nodes removed or have had radiation therapy for breast cancer.
The onset of lymphedema is expected to reduce in the near future because breast surgery and treatments are becoming more conservative. For example, instead of performing a mastectomy which removes the entire breast and a larger amount of lymph nodes, women are treated with surgery aimed at conserving the breast by only removing the cancer and the tissue immediately surrounding it. In addition, alternative procedures have recently been developed, such as sentinel lymph node biopsy, which enables the doctor to remove a smaller amount of lymph nodes, and axillary reverse mapping, which is a procedure that drains the arm before surgery so lymph nodes can be saved if possible.
Do you suffer from symptoms related to lymphedema? Contact Reeder Vein Institute.
For more information about treatment for lymphedema, contact us today. You can reach us directly at 972.566.3040 in Dallas or 817.438.7260 in Fort Worth. We look forward to hearing from you!