Cancer Care

Some cancer treatments (especially for breast cancer), may create risk for lymphedema. Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the body's tissue that causes swelling, most often in the arm(s) and leg(s), but sometimes other parts of the body. Lymphedema can develop when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired from a hereditary condition (primary lymphedema) or when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are damaged or removed (secondary lymphedema). For example, surgically removing the lymph nodes and/or damage to the nodes due to radiation therapy increases your risk of secondary lymphedema.

When the impairment becomes so great that the lymphatic fluid exceeds the body's ability to remove it, an abnormal amount of thick fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. Left untreated, this extra fluid not only causes tissue swelling, but also reduces the oxygen availability in the tissue, interferes with wound healing and provides a perfect environment for bacteria that can result in infection. Once lymphedema has started, it cannot be cured, but early and careful management can prevent the onset or reduce symptoms and keep the condition from getting worse.

Good circulation of the lymphatic system can lead to healthier living.