Who Is at Risk for Developing Lymphedema?

In our previous post, we touched upon what lymphedema is and attention to proper healing. Today, we’d like to call your attention to which types or groups of people are most likely to develop lymphedema or in other words, those women that are most at risk for developing lymphedema in relation to their breast surgery, particularly in tandem with mastectomy surgery.

Women that have had any of the procedures listed here could be at risk for developing lymphedema:

  • Simple mastectomy in combination with axillary (arm pit) lymph node removal. You may want to read our previous post that mentions what, exactly, lymph is, and what lymphedema means to mastectomy patients.
  • Lumpectomy in combination with axillary lymph node removal.
  • Modified radical mastectomy in combination with axillary lymph node removal. [A simple mastectomy removes the breast tissue, nipple, areola and skin but not all the lymph nodes. A modified radical removes the entire breast — including the breast tissue, skin, areola and nipple — and most of the underarm (axillary) lymph nodes. Per Mayo Clinic.]
  • Combined cancer surgery and radiation therapy to a lymph node region (such as the neck, armpit, groin, pelvis, or abdomen.)
  • Radiation therapy to a lymph node region.

Again, a preview of our previous post, if you haven’t had the chance to (and if you aren’t yet familiar with lymphedema and threat sources) would be a “quick study” in these things!

Lymphedema can occur within a few days, months, or years after surgery. A small amount of swelling is normal for the first four to six weeks after surgery.

Next up: What are the signs and symptoms of lymphedema?

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