In Current Blog

January 20, 2015
By: Shirin Shallwani

Lymphedema is swelling due to an abnormal build up of fluid in the tissues of the body. It is caused by a blockage or injury to the lymphatic system or due to a developmental abnormality. Some of the risk factors for cancer-related lymphedema include:

– Surgical resection of axillary or inguinal lymph nodes
– Radiotherapy to breast/axillary lymph nodes or pelvis/inguinal lymph nodes
– Wound complications
– Recurrent infections
– Trauma in “at risk” limb
– Obesity

Below are ways the risk of lymphedema can be reduced.

Avoiding trauma or injury to the “at risk” limb:
– Avoiding burns, injections, insect bites, etc.
– Protection of skin with gloves, socks, shoes
– Use of sunscreen, insect repellent, non-allergenic moisturizer

Preventing bacterial and fungal infections:
– Proper hygiene and skin care, with regular skin inspection
– Cleaning of wounds with soap and disinfectant

Avoiding prolonged limb constriction:
– Avoiding tight sleeves, watches, rings
– Wearing well-fitted bras with proper support (avoiding underwire bras)
– Avoiding socks and underwear with tight elastic bands
– Avoiding shoulder bags/purses or backpacks that constrict

Adopting a healthy, active lifestyle with regular exercise and a healthy diet:
– Engaging in gradually progressed cardiovascular and resistance exercise, with deep breathing exercises
– Maintaining a healthy body weight

Signs of lymphedema include swelling in the limb, trunk, or genitals. Associated symptoms include heaviness, tightness and stiffness. If you experience these signs and symptoms, contact your oncologist or radiation oncologist. Infection (cellulitis) is the most dangerous complication of lymphedema. Signs of infection may include skin redness or rash, warmer skin temperature, fever/chills and increased swelling.

Lymphedema can be managed through a combination of treatment modalities, including compression, exercise, skin care and manual lymphatic drainage. For more information on lymphedema treatment and therapists in your area, visit the Lymphedema Association of Quebec website at

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