Lymphedema Branch


Welcome to the lymphedema branch of the side effects limb. Lymphedema is swelling of the arm(s) or leg(s). It is caused by damage or removal of the lymph nodes. It can happen to any patient. A lot of patients do not recall receiving information about lymphedema. It may be painful. It may also be hard to deal with.

Some patients never get lymphedema.
Others do.
Some get it once, then never again.
Some get it over and over again.
Medical scientists do not know why ... yet

But if you had lymph nodes removed or damaged, you have a lifetime risk for lymphedema (it can happen to you next week, 20 years from now, or never)If you have symptoms (see Leaf 5. Medicine Wheel: The Body), and you've never learned how to manage the symptoms, you need to see your provider right away (within the same day of noticing the symptoms if possible). The longer the delay, the more likely you are to have serious problems.

The purpose of this branch within the SIDE EFFECTS branch is to help you understand lymphedema and how you may be able to prevent, control or reduce its effects.

NOTE: This section includes information about lymphedema (swelling) of both the arm(s) and leg(s). Breast cancer patients usually only get the swelling in the arm(s) where the lymph nodes were removed. But information is also included about swelling in the legs because patients of other types of cancer are also reading these pages. If their lymph nodes were removed near their groin, they can get lymphedema in their legs.

Do you think cancer-treatment related lymphedema is more common in men or women?
1. Men
2. Woman
3. Don't know

Click for: Answer

What information can I find in this branch?

  1. Storytellers Leaf. These are the drawings that represent three or more real Native cancer survivors' experiences. But for different reasons, it is important for the real survivors' to keep their identity private. The storytellers in this branch include:
    1. Marlene
    2. John
    3. Mary

  2. Introduction Leaf. This leaf gives you an introduction and overview of lymphedema; This leaf includes the following:
    1. What is lymphedema?
    2. How soon does it happen?
    3. What are lymph nodes?
    4. What is the lymph system?
    5. Where are lymph nodes in my body?
    6. Why do I need lymph nodes or the lymph system?
    7. Why is lymphedema a problem?
    8. Why did the surgeon take some of my lymph nodes out?
    9. How did the provider damage some of my lymph nodes?
    10. When are lymph nodes removed?

  3. Who gets it? - lymphedema. It includes:
    1. Who is likely to get lymphedema?
    2. Do only breast cancer patients get lymphedema?
    3. What are some other facts about cancer-related lymphedema?
    4. What is "primary lymphedema"?
    5. What is non-cancer "secondary" lymphedema?
    6. How is cancer-related lymphedema labeled?
    7. What are types of "secondary" cancer-related lymphedema?

  4. Medicine Wheel: Body. This leaf includes:
    1. What are the symptoms of lymphedema?
    2. What are some ways to help protect my body from getting lymphedema?
    3. What are other prevention behaviors I can do to avoid lymphedema?
    4. How can I manage my lymphedema?
    5. Why does it matter how quickly I get help for my lymphedema?

  5. Medicine Wheel: Mind. This section lists some of the ways lymphedema affects our mind and mental functioning.

  6. Medicine Wheel: Emotions. This section describes several of the emotional affects of lymphedema.

  7. Medicine Wheel: Spirit. This section describes spiritual affects of lymphedema and how some traditional Indian ceremonies need to be modified to help protect you.

  8. Exercise. This has a lot of different information about physical activity, exercise and lymphedema. It includes:
    1. What type of physical exercises should I do to help prevent or manage my lymphedema?
    2. General Instructions
    3. Warm-up exercises
    4. Small ball exercises
    5. Lymphedema of the legs
    6. Canned food and upper body exercises

  9. Examples of patient Questions for their provider related to lymphedema

  10. Glossary / Definitions / Word Meanings
"Doctor says, "Well in 90 days you have to have another surgery to take out your lymph nodes, sexual lymph nodes".

Robert, "So I still don't have insurance and I know that, that it's going to be a big ordeal. So I do the wrong thing. I go a year and just forget about it.""

Lymph nodes are removed as part of a cancer diagnosis. They can also be damaged by radiation.

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