Lymphedema Postoperative Healing is a major part to your recovery. Lymphedema is an abnormal swelling, typically in the arms or legs, due to a buildup of fluid, called lymph, an accumulation resulting from missing, damaged, impaired, or removed lymph vessels or nodes. The vessels and nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which fights off infection and clear debris from the body. There are two types of Lymphedema:

  1. Primary, which is rare and is caused by the absence of, or abnormalities in, certain lymph vessels at birth.
  2. Secondary. In the essence of space and time, suffice it to say lymphedema results from a blockage or interruption, altering the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system. It may come about from an infection, cancer, surgery, scar tissue formation, trauma, thrombosis (a blood clot in a vein), radiation, or other treatment cancer.

Since lymph nodes can be damaged through the course of breast surgery, namely mastectomy, and also in course with radiation therapy, the flow of lymph can be cut off. If cancer has spread from the chest into the underarm, it is common for this damage to these lymph nodes, and thus the need for additional, surgical removal and radiation therapy.

In addition, after therapy, infection can develop in the incisions, scar tissue, trauma, or thrombosis, which is blood clotting deep in the vein. So in looking at these potential dangers, close monitoring is needed to ensure safe and proper healing.

Up next: Who is at risk for developing lymphedema?