Lymphedema: What Every Woman With Breast Cancer Should Know

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Signs of lymphedema

Some signs of lymphedema:

  • Swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Part of your body feels full or heavy
  • Skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red
  • New aching, tingling, or other discomfort in the area
  • Less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand, or wrist
  • Trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves
  • Your bra doesn’t fit the same
  • Your ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight, but you haven’t gained weight

Early on, the skin usually stays soft and raising your affected arm might relieve the swelling. But over time, the swollen area may become hot and red and the skin hard and stiff.

If you’ve had any type of breast surgery, lymph nodes removed, or radiation treatment, look at your upper body in front of a mirror. Compare both sides of your body and look for changes in size, shape, or skin color. Get to know your body and what’s normal for you. This way you can spot changes and get treatment right away.

Last Medical Review: 07/03/2013
Last Revised: 07/03/2013