When can lymphedema show up?

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Question from Jean: How soon after lymph node removal would signs of lymphedema be present?
Answers - Julie Gralow, M.D. Sometimes lymphedema, which is a blockage of the lymphatic flow in the arm, occurs immediately after surgery. Swelling caused by the surgery itself can sometimes cause some arm swelling that will get better over time and may not be permanent. Unfortunately, lymphedema and problems with lymphatic drainage can occur any time after surgery. Generally speaking, if you're going to have problems, they will be noticed within the first year after surgery. However, infections, cuts, and many of the other things Marisa has just gone over can lead to lymphedema many years later. That's why it's important to be vigilant about your skin and your arm, even 10 years after your surgery.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Managing Treatment Side Effects featured Julie Gralow, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about many of the short-term and long-term side effects of breast cancer treatment, and ways of minimizing them, so you can get on with your life and enjoy your day-to-day activities.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2003.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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