Lymphedema after breast cancer surgery is a concern shared by many patients. Dr. Lisa Curcio, a breast care specialist and surgeon at the Advanced Breast Care at Breastlink – Saddleback, discussed lymphedema conditions, symptoms and treatments with in a 3:36 video.

Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Surgery

Lymphedema after breast cancer surgery is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the arm following the removal of the under arm (axillary) lymph nodes. Symptoms may become evident days, months or sometimes even years after a breast cancer surgery.

As Dr. Curcio explains in the video “the symptoms can be very subtle. Often, it is asymptomatic, swelling of the arm. It is often not noticed until a patient puts on a piece of clothing that perhaps feels a little bit tight compared to the other side.”

The primary types of procedures that may lead a patient to develop lymphedema after breast cancer surgery include:

  • A simple mastectomy in combination with axillary lymph node removal.
  • A lumpectomy procedure completed in combination with axillary lymph node removal.
  • A modified radical mastectomy (which includes removal of the breast and axillary lymph nodes).
  • Cancer surgery combined with radiation therapy to a lymph node region.
  • Radiation therapy to a lymph node region.

Unfortunately there is no cure for lymphedema. However, early detection of lymphedema after breast cancer treatment can lead to early intervention and prevent a more serious case from developing. Although every patient’s case is different lymphedema can be managed with active surveillance and a treatment plan.

It’s important for patients to ask questions about lymphedema, its prevention and possible treatment. Dr. Curcio believes “the most important thing I give my patients is education about lymphedema before surgery and after surgery. This gives them resources and tools to be proactive in their healthcare.

If you notice a symptom of lymphedema after a breast cancer surgical procedure please contact your doctor and report the changes. For more information about lymphedema please visit our lymphedema page.