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About 20% of women with breast cancer develop lymphedema

Written by: Dra. Carmen Iglesias Urraca
Edited by: Top Doctors®

1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. In addition, about 20% of them develop lymphedema, regardless of whether or not treatment includes removal of the glanglios nodes.



Lymphedema is an edema or swelling that appears following a decrease in the number, function or obstruction of the lymphatic vessels. This causes to increase the volume of the arm and pains that can become serious consequences if appropriate measures are not taken appear.

Typically, lymphedema is progressive and disabling, and is characterized by increased volume. The conservative and surgical treatment can help the patient to carry out normal activities of life with less pain and discomfort, as well as a significant improvement from increased volume of his arm.


Causes of Lymphedema

Lymphedema causes are unknown, although it is known that there is a genetic factor and that obesity favors its appearance. In addition, it is more common in patients receiving radiation therapy, but we do not know what this association is due.

lymphedema woman

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The main symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Heaviness of the arm (normally, but can be any member).
  • Swelling
  • Changes in skin elasticity
  • Itching or burning

At first, the edema is soft, and recovers with rest and keeping the arm raised. Gradually it becomes a hard edema that causes a feeling of heaviness and sometimes pain. The skin loses its elasticity and natural shine.

Given these symptoms, you should consult a specialist in plastic surgery to assess the case. The patient should always be assessed by the Service Rehabilitation, where treatment begins with acupressure and lymphatic drainage.

The earlier consultation, the better the results. For this reason, preventing the onset of lymphedema should be performed in all patients who have been made an intervention of his tumor with lymph node removal.


Lymphedema microsurgery


Surgical treatment is to restructure the role of the lymphatic system.

To solve the lymphedema in the early stages can be performed linfovenosa anastomosis, which is to join a superficial lymph vessel to a superficial vein.

It is a little painful operation done on an outpatient or day income. By the third week the patient can resume his life slowly.

Another technique used is microsurgical flaps transfer lymph nodes. Transplantation involves lymph nodes in another location, such as the chin, collarbone or groin, to the affected area. This technique is indicated for the chronic cases of the disease. Postoperatively it is slower and requires four or five days of admission, plus two weeks of rest. The daily activity begins to recover from the fourth week.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dra. Carmen Iglesias Urraca
Plastic surgery

Dr. Iglesias Magpie is a leading specialist in Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery. Expert in microsurgical reconstruction of traumatic aftermath, burns or oncological. Lymphedema is one of its core areas of interest, devoted to surgical treatment of mismo.Además has extensive training in cosmetic surgery body contouring, breast and facial. He combines his care professional work with teaching and research. He has made about 70 presentations at national and international courses, more than 20 publications in refereed journals and several book chapters. It belongs to the research group of the Hospital La Paz, and collaborates with the Institute for Metallurgical Research (CENIM) of the CSIC as a collaborating researcher of some projects. It is Section Head of Plastic Surgery in the Plastic and Burns Hospital Universitario La Paz Surgery, and a member of various associations.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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