Lymphedema is a chronic lymphatic disease that results in disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body. It can be hereditary (Primary Lymphedema) or it can occur after a surgical procedure, infection, radiation or other physical trauma (Secondary Lymphedema). In breast cancer, for example, it can appear in the arm on the same side as the cancer, after lymph nodes are removed from the armpit region for cancer staging. Primary Lymphedema often occurs in the lower extremities. Lymph is the protein-rich body fluid that accumulates when the lymphatic system for fluid transport is damaged.
Why is it that I was not warned about the risk of lymphedema prior to my surgery?
Regrettably, many doctors are still very under-educated about the lymphatic system in general and, specifically, about the problem of lymphedema. Here at Stanford we’re trying to rectify ignorance about lymphedema through specific educational initiative and I believe that nationally awareness is also increasing. Patients can also help their doctors to learn. Physicians must learn from their patients about their lymphedema experiences so that they will be better prepared to deal with their future patients.
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