Lymphedema is a build-up of lymph fluid in the fatty tissue just under the skin. The condition results in swelling, usually in the arms and legs. It can occur when lymph nodes are removed or damaged during breast surgery or radiation treatment. Lymphedema prevents fluid from draining properly, which can cause discomfort, limited movement, and infections that return over and over again.
Lymphedema symptoms can begin months or even years after treatment. If you’ve had breast surgery or treatment, periodically examine your body in the mirror. If you notice changes in size, shape, or skin color of your arms or legs, seek treatment right away.
Signs and symptoms to watch for include:
- Aching, tingling, or discomfort
- Clothes and jewelry not fitting properly (pant legs, shirt sleeves, watches, or rings)
- Feeling full or heavy in the arms or legs
- Restricted movement or flexibility
- Swelling in the chest, arms, or legs
- Texture or color changes in the skin (feeling hard or looking red)
Our breast cancer surgeons seek the least invasive treatment option to eliminate cancer -- and decrease uncomfortable side effects when possible. This includes procedures such as sentinel node biopsy. Surgeons remove fewer lymph nodes with this approach, which reduces the risk of lymphedema.