Lymphedema is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Although its symptoms can be distressing, the cancer care team at your hospital can help you with symptom management. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with lymphedema, here are the facts you need to know.
What Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition in which the lymph system no longer functions properly, causing fluid to build up in tissues. Primary lymphedema is caused by the abnormal development of the lymph system and is usually present at birth. Secondary lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymph system. Both cancer and treatments for cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, can cause lymphedema.
What Are the Symptoms?
Swelling is the most common symptom of lymphedema. It usually occurs in an arm or leg, including the fingers and toes. The swelling may cause the leg or arm to feel heavy and the skin to feel tight and thick. Other skin changes, including blisters and warts, may also occur. One of the first signs people notice about lymphedema is that clothing and jewelry suddenly feels tighter or doesn’t fit. Swelling can interfere with joint movement, and when lymphedema occurs in the legs, it can cause a burning sensation. Patients may also experience hair loss and trouble sleeping.
What Treatments Are Available?
Lymphedema can cause both physical and emotional health issues, so it’s important to take it seriously. Although there is no cure for lymphedema, there are ways it can be managed. Compression devices, bandages, pressure garments, and the use of diuretics can all provide relief. When lymphedema occurs, your hospital’s cancer center may recommend diagnostics to make sure a new cancer is not the cause.
The Miami Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital provides comprehensive, compassionate cancer care for patients. Our hospital’s Kohly Center for Outpatient Rehabilitation has a program designed to treat lymphedema patients and help them find relief. Our cancer care is just one way our hospital is committed to keeping Miami healthy. Find out more about what we do by calling our hospital at (305) 854-4400.