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Lymphoedema can develop weeks, months or even years after cancer treatment.
This video gives an overview of lymphoedema.
This information was correct as of 1 December 2011.
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Cancer-related lymphoedema is caused by cancer treatments or the cancer itself.
The possible causes are:
Lymphoedema can develop weeks, months or even years after cancer treatment. The most common places for lymphoedema to occur after cancer treatment are:
Sometimes, lymphoedema can develop in the breast or chest after breast cancer treatment. Occasionally, lymphoedema can develop in the pelvic area and genitals. This can happen after surgery and/radiotherapy to lymph nodes in the pelvis for cancers of the prostate, bladder, womb, vagina, testis, penis or rectum.
Lymphoedema can also develop in the face, head and neck after surgery and/or radiotherapy to lymph nodes in the neck.
Not everyone who has surgery to remove lymph nodes or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes will get lymphoedema.
It’s common to get swelling (oedema) near the surgery scar in the first days after surgery, but this usually settles down gradually. This is different from lymphoedema. If you’re concerned about any swelling, always talk to your doctor or nurse.
Content last reviewed: 1 March 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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