Who gets lymphedema?
Doctors do not fully understand why some patients are more likely to have problems with fluid build-up than others. People who have many lymph nodes removed and/or radiation therapy have a higher risk of chronic lymphedema. But there’s no way to predict who will develop it.
Lymphedema can become a problem after surgery or radiation treatment for any type of cancer. It’s often linked to treatments for
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pelvic area cancers (such as bladder, testicular, uterine, vulvar, or cervical cancer)
Lymphedema is seen more often in the arms or legs, but it can happen in other areas, too. If lymphedema occurs after breast cancer treatment, it can affect the breast, chest, and underarm, as well as the arm closest to the surgery. After cancer in the abdomen (belly) or pelvis has been treated, lymphedema may appear as swelling of the abdomen (belly), genitals, or one or both legs. Treatment of tumors in the head and neck area has been linked with lymphedema in the face, mouth, eyes, and neck.
Last Medical Review: 04/05/2013
Last Revised: 04/05/2013