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Swelling, also called edema, happens when fluid builds up in body tissues.

Swelling is a common side effect of many breast cancer treatments:

Other medicines you may be taking during treatment, including pain medications, bisphosphonates (bone-strengthening medications), and steroids also can cause swelling.

Managing swelling

If the swelling is severe, accompanied by pain, or if your arm starts to swell after surgery (which could be a sign of arm lymphedema), talk to your doctor right away. This type of swelling could be a sign of infection or other serious condition and needs to be treated as soon as possible.

If your swelling is mild, try these tips to ease it:

  • Elevate the swollen area. If possible, raise the swollen area above your heart. This reduces the flow of fluid into the swollen area.
  • Avoid standing for long periods.
  • Wear loose clothing so fluids can flow easily out of the swollen area.
  • Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
  • Avoid salty foods. Salt can make you retain fluid.

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