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Lymphedema and Breast Cancer

Lymphedema, or arm swelling is a very common occurrence after breast cancer surgery, and especially common in patients who have also had radiation therapy pre or post operatively.

While this was a very troublesome problem for breast cancer patients years ago, we now have minimally invasive procedures that can help diagnose, and treat this common problem without an incision and minimal downtime.

lymphedema-after-breast-cancerWhile lymphatic vessels may play a factor in lymphedema after breast cancer surgery, we know now that vein narrowing after surgery or radiation is also a major factor in a large number of patients. This is because lymphatic vessels drain into veins, and any narrowing of the veins draining the arm lowers the threshold for lymphedema to become a problem.

In addition, lymph nodes typically are located on the main vein draining the arm, and when scarring due to surgical dissection or radiation has occurred, typically a narrowing of the vein ensues, causing a venous component as well as a lymphatic component to the problem.

While lymphatic surgery is far more invasive, with a significant number of patients who do not benefit from these procedures, particularly if a venous component is present, the diagnostic test and treatment for the venous component is minimally invasive, very low risk, and done via a catheter, often with the patient under local anesthesia only.

In addition, because relieving the pressure caused by any vein narrowing allows the lymphatic system to flow more efficiently, often we are able to achieve a significant clinical benefit in patients even with combined lymphatic and venous swelling of the arm.

Do you have questions about lymphedema after breast cancer?

Contact NYC Surgical Associates today to speak with one of our lymphedema specialists.

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