Lymphedema is swelling that can occur in an area of the body that is caused by improper drainage of fluid out of that part of the body.
Lymphedema can be primary or secondary. Primary means that it happens on its own and secondary means that it is caused by some other factor.
Breast cancer patients deal with secondary lymphedema. This type of lymphedema typically occurs due to removal of lymph nodes under the armpit during breast cancer surgery.
When lymph nodes are removed from the armpit there can be blockages in the lymphatic system which can lead to lymphedema.
The removal of lymph nodes does not mean that someone will get lymphedema, but the more lymph nodes that are removed the higher the risk of lymphedema.
There is no cure for lymphedema but there are treatments. The earlier lymphedema is diagnosed the more options there are for patients.
Early signs of lymphedema can be heaviness of the arm, slight swelling of the fingers.
If you have had any lymph nodes removed and are experiencing any of these symptoms contact your breast surgeon for evaluation.