Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema refers to the chronic swelling of a body part which is caused by the accumulation of fluid and protein in the tissue spaces.

Due to a disruption in the lymphatic system, some cancer treatments can cause lymphoedema; this is called secondary lymphoedema. Secondary lymphoedema can occur any time following cancer treatment, but the most common presentation is within the first two years following treatment.

Patients with a cancer history may develop lymphoedema because of:

  • Surgical removal of lymph nodes
  • Radiotherapy disturbance of lymph nodes
  • Tumours blocking or compressing the lymphatic pathways
  • Inflammation within the lymph vessels

Information for cancer survivors and their families

Information for health professionals