Because breast cancer can impact the lymph system, some cancer survivors also face the challenges of lymphedema, the buildup of fluid in soft body tissues. It occurs when cancer and cancer treatments damage or block the lymph system.
For women with breast cancer, lymphedema usually occurs in the arm. Lymphedema can develop within a few days or even a few years after breast cancer treatment. Symptoms include:
Some conditions increase your risk of lymphedema, like:
Your risk of lymphedema increases with the number of lymph nodes affected or removed by treatment. For example, if surgery only removes the sentinel lymph node (the first lymph node to receive lymphatic drainage from a tumor), you have less risk of lymphedema.
Lymphedema is challenging physically, psychologically and socially, but you can take some important steps to manage its effects.
Be proactive with these tips: