What Is Lymphedema and How Is It Treated?

Attractive Multi-ethnic Young Female Doctor Talking with Patient

As part of your cancer care plan, your oncologist may advise the surgical removal of lymph nodes. This can lead to lymphedema, which refers to swelling of the arms or legs. Although lymphedema has no cure, there are many options available to manage the condition. Consider talking to your cancer care team about the treatment options available to you.

Understanding Lymphedema

You can ask your cancer care specialist to help you better understand lymphedema. Your body’s lymph system plays a critical role in defending you from illnesses. Lymph fluid travels through vessels and lymph nodes. If the lymph nodes or vessels sustain damage, become blocked, or are removed, the lymph fluid can accumulate. This causes swelling of the affected area . In addition to cancer surgery, lymphedema can occur as a result of radiation treatment, infection, blood vessel surgery, or trauma.

Identifying the Symptoms

After undergoing cancer care, be alert to the possible signs of lymphedema. In addition to swelling, you may experience discomfort, aching, or loss of range of motion. The skin may harden, become red, become tight, or feel heavy.

Exploring Treatment Options

Your physician can recommend effective treatment options for you, which may include massage and specific exercises to encourage drainage of the lymph fluid. Sometimes, a physician might recommend an external pump for fluid drainage. Antibiotics can prevent or treat an infection and pain relievers can ease your discomfort. You might also take diuretics to relieve the swelling. Compression stockings, sleeves, and bandages are available to encourage the lymph fluid to flow out of the affected body part. Occasionally, surgery may be considered.

At the Lymphedema Management program at West Hills Hospital , you’ll find specially trained and certified lymphedema specialists who provide individualized treatment planning, patient education, and sophisticated treatment options. Our community hospital in West Hills also provides exceptional services for cancer patients at our Cancer Care department. If you would like to obtain a referral to a specialist at our hospital, you can call our Consult-A-Nurse line at (818) 676-4000.

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