Andrea Branas, MSE, MPT, CLT and Joy Cohn, PT, DPT, CLT Good Shepherd Penn Partners Last Modified: October 21, 2013
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is when fluid (lymph) collects anywhere in your body and causes swelling (edema).
Lymphedema after Gynecologic Cancer Treatment
Some people develop lymphedema after cancer treatment. Surgery that removes lymph nodes or radiation treatment to the pelvis may damage lymph nodes in that area. For women with gynecologic cancers the swelling will be in the legs, abdomen or groin area.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, notify your doctor, nurse or cancer rehabilitation specialist.
Swelling in your abdomen, groin area, legs or feet.
Numbness, tingling, or achiness in your legs or feet.
A feeling of heaviness in your legs or feet.
Your clothing or shoes feel tight.
You gain weight for no known reason.
Lymphedema cannot be prevented. Do not blame yourself if you develop lymphedema.
What you can do to minimize swelling:
Wear clothing that fits properly. Avoid tight clothing and elastic bands on socks or underwear
Do not go barefoot. Wear tie shoes that fit well and cover your entire foot. Always wear socks to avoid skin irritation.
Do not have injections (shots) in the legs or buttocks.
Stay out of the hot weather. Use an air conditioner in the summer.
Avoid hot showers and baths, including hot tubs.
Avoid sunbathing. Protect your legs from the sun. Use a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30.
Apply an insect repellent if you will be exposed to biting bugs.
Protect cuts and bruises.
Do not cut cuticles.
Avoid injury while clipping toenails or have a podiatrist cut your toenails.
If you must remove hair, use an electric razor for hair removal.
It is best to see a doctor who is knowledgeable about lymphedema. If a diagnosis of lymphedema is made, you should see a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT). The treatment for lymphedema is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).