Lymphedema

Lymphedema overview

One side effect of cancer treatment that patients may experience is lymphedema. Lymphedema is the swelling that sometimes occurs because of lymph node removal or radiation treatment. 

Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.

SCCA provides services and treatment options for lymphedema that current patients are encouraged to take advantage of, including:

  • An experienced team of physical therapists who are all Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLTs). Their role in treating lymphedema is twofold. First, for patients  at risk of lymphedema, our therapists will provide education on signs/symptoms of lymphedema, how to reduce the risk of developing lymphedema and instruction in self lymphatic  massage. And second, for patients who have lymphedema, our therapists will instruct on how to best reduce and better manage the swelling.
  • Shine, a specialty gift and oncology services store located at SCCA House in South Lake Union that specializes in compression garments for lymphedema.
  • New surgical options that may help to prevent lymphedema or make the most serious lymphedema symptoms easier to manage.

Patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and come to SCCA’s multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Specialty Center have baseline arm circumferential measurements taken prior to treatment to better assess for any early signs of lymphedema. They are then followed routinely for the first two years after surgery.  

If you’re a current patient and would like to learn more about lymphedema treatment at SCCA, talk to your care team about a referral.

SCCA’s Physical Therapy department is located on the 4th floor of the SCCA Clinic on Lake Union and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery. Sign In medicine, a sign is something found during a physical exam or from a laboratory test that shows that a person may have a condition or disease. In medicine, a sign is something found during a physical exam or from a laboratory test that shows that a person may have a condition or disease. Some examples of signs are fever, swelling, skin rash, high blood pressure and high blood glucose. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.

Facts

Lymphedema can occur to anyone undergoing a surgical lymph node biopsy or radiation therapy. Lymphedema is a swelling (edema) that can occur anywhere in the body including the breast, trunk, arms, legs, as well as head and neck. For patients undergoing breast cancer treatment, the areas affected are generally the arm, breast or chest wall.

Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery.

Our Staff

At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Physical Therapists work as part of the care team with a patient's doctors, nurses and other specialists. Patients who have secondary lymphedema can be seen at the SCCA clinic by one of our Certified Lymphedema Therapists.

Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery.

Treatment

Patients who have been treated at SCCA can be seen in the physical therapy department by one of our Certified Lymphedema Specialists, who are trained in teaching patients how to prevent or manage lymphedema. Our reconstructive surgeons also have advanced methods to prevent lymphedema and to treat it after it starts.

Lymphedema A condition in which extra lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery.
Sera and Robert talk about exercising during treatment and the SCCA Physical Therapists who helped them do it.