What is Lymphedema

Lymphedema arises when either a loss of function of structural damage to the lymphatic circulation occurs, and is a comming side effect of breast cancer treatment, although it can be associated with other cancers as well. The three stages of this condition range from reversible and easily treatable to permanent skin damage. While there is no cure, early diagnosis and treatment improves both the prognosis and the condition.

If your doctor has informed you that you have lymphedema, you probably have many questions and concerns about your diagnosis, what treatments you are likely to receive, and how to manage this condition.

Lymph is a clear fluid collected from body tissues that transports fats and proteins from the small intestine; removes bacteria, viruses, toxins and certain proteins from tissues; and supplies white blood cells, especially lymphocytes, to the bloodstream to help fight infections and other diseases. Lymphedema is a clinical condition that arises when either a loss of function or structural damage to the lymphatic circulation occurs. The term “edema” means swelling. Hence, lymphedema literally means swelling due to the disruption of the flow of lymph fluid.

Congenital lymphedema, which is one of the primary forms, is a result of genetic or other inherited conditions that make an individual intrinsically prone to the condition. More common are secondary, acquired forms of lymphedema that arise as a result of cancer; cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy; trauma; and infection. Secondary lymphedema can develop at any time after the causal surgery, infection, or trauma.

Source: National Comprehensive Cancer Network Learn more