- Extra fluid in your arm(s) or leg(s) where you had any lymph nodes removed or damaged
- A side effect from having lymph nodes removed during surgery
- A side effect from the doctor taking out some of your lymph nodes
- A chronic condition
- Not curable
- Manageable for most people
- Not at all to you
- Immediately after your cancer treatment
- 1 to 2 years after your cancer treatment
- Many years after your cancer treatment
- After your treatment, but started
- Because of an insect bite or some other minor injury
- After a lot of physical activity
- After a plane trip
What are lymph nodes? Lymph nodes:
- Are small glands
- Help drain fluids from your arms and legs
- Help keep good fluid balance in your arms and legs
- Get rid of
- Infections (like harmful bacteria)
- Waste materials (waste happens even when cells act normally)
- Poisons in your body (like from medications)
- So many new words are used that most people don't understand a lot of what is happening to them. The lymph nodes help fluids to drain from your arm. They are important in fighting infections
What is the lymph system?
- It is small tubes (like blood vessels) that are in your body tissues. These tubes lie alongside your blood vessels.
- It contains infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes.
- Lymph nodes are small glands that help balance fluids and get rid of waste materials.
- The lymph system also includes the spleen, thymus and bone marrow (Marion and Potts, Choices 2003, pp. 697, 196, 197, 422, 423)
Where are lymph nodes in my body?
|Printed with permission from Morra and Potts, Choices . 2003 p. 698|
|How many lymph nodes do most people have in their entire body?
Click for: Answer
Why do I need lymph nodes or the lymph system?
- To help prevent infections and injury
- To help fluids drain from your arms and legs
Why is lymphedema a problem?The lymph fluid:
- Is not able to drain from your arms
- May contain bacteria or wastes that stay in your arm(s) or leg(s) (soft tissues).
- When bacteria and wastes stay in your tissues (rather than draining away), they have time to grow and become infections.
- Causes pressure that may also cause pain
- The providers need to look at your lymph nodes to see if they have any cancer cells in them
- If they see cancer cells in one or more lymph nodes:
- Then your cancer may have spread to other parts of your body
- The type of treatment you get will be different from someone else who does not have cancer cells in their lymph nodes
- The lymph nodes are very small. It is easy for the surgeon to accidentally cut a lymph node or damage one during surgery
- Radiation can also damage the lymph nodes
- Lymph nodes may be removed at the time of the first biopsy. Other times lymph nodes are looked at or removed after receiving the biopsy results.
- Sometimes things happen so fast you may not even realize what is happening.