What to Know About Lymphedema
Many women who undergo breast cancer surgery develop a swelling of the arm called lymphedema. Lymphedema is brought on when lymph nodes under the arm are removed, slowing the flow of lymph fluid and causing the fluid to build up in the arm and hand.
Lumpectomies and mastectomies, in which doctors remove underarm lymph nodes, are common causes for lymphedema. Radiation and chemotherapy may also cause arm swelling.
Lymphedema can occur immediately following surgery or months or years later, depending on the type. The most common type of lymphedema is slow and painless and may occur 18 to 24 months after surgery, while other types occur within a few days to about four to six weeks following surgery.