Lymphedema is the abnormal buildup of fluid in soft tissue due to a blockage in the lymphatic system.The lymphatic system helps fight infection and other diseases by carrying lymph, a colorless fluid containing white blood cells, throughout the body.
People with lymphedema in their arm or leg may experience the following symptoms: Symptoms of lymphedema may begin very gradually and are not always easy to detect.
Sometimes the only symptoms may be heaviness or aching in an arm or leg. If you develop any symptoms of lymphedema, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
You will need to learn how to manage them so they do not get worse.
Because swelling may be a sign of cancer, it is also important to see your doctor to be sure the cancer has not come back.
But when the lymph nodes are removed or damaged, lymphatic fluid collects in the surrounding tissues and causes them to swell. And it particularly arises in people who have received treatment for breast cancer or cancers that affect the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys, prostate, testicles, and penis.
For people receiving cancer treatment to the head and neck region, the neck is the most common site of lymphedema.
But it may also develop below the chin, in the face, and, less often, inside the mouth.
Lymphedema may develop immediately after surgery or radiation therapy, or it may occur months or even years after cancer treatment has ended.
Lymphedema is usually a predictable long-term side effect of some cancer treatments.
The most common causes of lymphedema in cancer survivors include: The risk of lymphedema increases with the number of lymph nodes and vessels removed or damaged during cancer treatment or biopsies.
Sometimes lymphedema is not related to cancer or its treatment.