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Lymphoedema is a swelling of the arm that sometimes happens after surgery| or radiotherapy| to the lymph nodes in the armpit. It can develop months or years after treatment. Women who have had all or a large number of lymph nodes removed| are more at risk, but more so when radiotherapy is also given to the armpit. If you’ve only had a sentinel lymph node biopsy| the risk of getting lymphoedema is small.
There are things you can do to help reduce your chances of developing lymphoedema. Good skin care and protecting your arm and hand are important. Any break in the skin can increase your risk of getting an infection, which may trigger lymphoedema.
Here are some tips:
If you notice any swelling in your arm, hand or chest, always get it checked by your doctor or nurse. The earlier lymphoedema is diagnosed the easier it is to manage and treat successfully.
We have more information on lymphoedema| you might find helpful, including what causes it, how to recognise it, and ways to manage it.
Content last reviewed: 1 August 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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