LYMPHEDEMA – LOCALIZED SWELLING OF THE BODY CAUSED BY AN ABNORMAL ACCUMULATION OF LYMPH.
If you’re about to have breast cancer surgery, or have recently had it, chances are you’ve heard something about lymphedema. This condition can occur after surgical procedures involving the removal of lymph nodes and is characterized by “ profound swelling in the entire arm from shoulder to hand,” says Dr. Raj Nagarkar Chief surgical Oncologist At HCG Manavata Cancer Center.
Why Lymphedema Happens?
The lymphatic system (to which lymph nodes belong) helps fight infections and carries fluid that drains from cells & tissues into the bloodstream. Like network of blood vessels our body also has network of lymphatic system. When lymph nodes under the arm are removed as part of breast surgery, fluid can get backed up, causing swelling in the arm. “For many years, breast cancer surgery has involved not only removing cancer in the breast but also removing the lymph nodes in the armpit,” says Dr. Aaditya Aadhav , because if breast cancer spreads, the lymph nodes in armpit, or axilla, are typically the first place it will go. Once cancer gains access to the lymphatic system, it has the potential to move to distant organs such as the liver, lungs, and bone. However, it’s not just surgery that can lead to lymphedema. Radiation, another form of breast cancer treatment on the nodes under the armpit can lead to scar tissue that blocks drainage, also triggering the condition.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR LYMPHEDEMA?
People who undergo breast cancer surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy) are at risk for lymphedema, but other factors can contribute to the development of this condition. These include: •Advanced breast cancer. the risk of lymphedema was significantly higher in those with stage III breast cancer versus those with early-stage disease. •Axillary lymph node dissection, which includes removing lymph nodes under the arm. •Obesity. The risk of lymphedema is higher in those with a BMI over 30, research has shown. •Post-operative radiation. As mentioned, scar tissue can disrupt the draining process. Having one or more of these issues doesn’t mean that lymphedema is a foregone conclusion, but it does increase a person’s risk.