Lymphedema, the swelling of tissues due to the accumulation of lymph fluid, is a not uncommon result of cancer treatment. Occurring usually in the arms or legs, it is usually related to the removal of lymph nodes in surgery or the damage to lymph nodes from radiation. Whatever the cause, the usual drainage patterns are disrupted, and there is no where for the fluid to go. Hence, it ends up in the tissues and is essentially not curable. It is surely treatable, and it can wax and wane, but, once you have it, you have it.
Women who have had breast cancer surgery including the removal of axillary nodes and people who have had melanoma surgery that include node removals are most often effected. No one really knows how common this is, what is the incidence, and you can read widely varying statistics. The National Lymphedema Network is a good source of information:www.lymphnet.org
Women with the highest risk are those who have had both a full axillary dissection and radiation that included the arm pit (that would be me in 1993). If this is you, it is reasonable to think about the suggestions to reduce your risk and make decisions that are possible in your life. For example (and this is not a recommendation for anyone else), I do not ever wear a sleeve when I fly, and I have been on many more than 12 hour flights since that surgery. If I ever develop a problem, I will feel like an idiot, but I have chosen to believe the studies that suggest that flying/changes in air pressure are not a risk. I am careful to wear gloves when I garden and not to carry heavy things in the straight-arm-as-though-carrying-a-suitcase position. Roller bags have helped.
From Cure Today comes this article:
Cancer's Dirty Little Secret
After I was diagnosed with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma, I was told I needed to have my breasts removed. I met with the breast surgeon and discussed options available to me. After processing what I’d been told, I accepted what was to be. I went through the recommended surgery and treatment afterward.
Everything seemed to be going as well as could be expected, but a few weeks after surgery, I noticed some strange swelling in my upper arms. I didn't think much about it and assumed it was a result of having not only my breasts removed, but also lymph nodes in each arm. Recovery was long and both physically and emotionally draining. I made a concerted effort to move on with my life. I made the necessary adjustments and learned to accept my physical limitations. The swelling progressed, and I noticed that as I went
throughout my daily routine, it became more pronounced. I began to get concerned and contacted my doctor. Upon examination, she told me I was suffering from lymphedema. I’d never heard of this malady before and asked her to explain. She said many women experience a disruption in the lymphatic system after having surgery for breast cancer where lymph nodes were removed.
Dumbfounded, I wondered why neither my breast surgeon, my radiation oncologist nor my oncologist had ever mentioned the possibility of lymphedema to me. I was extremely upset and went home from my appointment determined to find answers.
Read more: http://www.curetoday.com/community/bonnie-annis/2016/06/cancers-dirty-little-secret?p=1