After breast cancer surgery, lymphedema mainly occurs in the arm. Cancer cells spread through the lymph vessels into the lymph nodes first. Many women have at least 1-3 lymph nodes removed in the proximity of cancer (sentinel lymph node biopsy) or sometimes even more (axillary lymph node dissection). Radiation therapy is often part of cancer therapy and can destroy the lymphatic system as well. After such surgical procedures and therapies, edema can also develop at your chest/breast and the chest wall. Obesity increases the risk of lymphedema after breast cancer treatment.
In patients with prostate cancer, cancer cells can spread to the surrounding lymph nodes in the groin. Removal of these lymph nodes or radiation therapy in this area also results in swelling around the groin and can also affect the genitals. The different locations of lymphedema are described here.
Other cancer types that are often associated with lymphedema are:
- Cancer in the pelvic area: bladder, testicles, penis, cervix, ovaries, vulva, or rectum.
- Lymphoma: cancer that affects specific cells of your immune system.
- Melanoma: skin cancer with a high risk of growing and spreading.
- Cancer in the area of the head and neck.
Lymphedema is a significant burden for the patient, especially when associated with cancer. Treating lymphedema requires a holistic approach that also includes your mental well-being. Self-management and connecting with people who have to deal with the same disease are important parts of lymphedema treatment. Our HCP Finder helps you to find the right professional support in your location.
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Claudia Lymphedema patient