Tips for identifying breast cancer related lymphoedema early

Understanding how you can identify breast cancer related lymphoedema early

Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, there are a number of hurdles that you may need to jump through – from finding the right doctor and deciding where to receive your care, undergoing treatment which can involve breast surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, to facing side effects such as hair loss and possible weight gain. For many men and women, developing lymphoedema on top of everything else can be like the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

While you may be able to hide or cover up other side effects of cancer, it can be difficult to manage a swollen arm from lymphoedema. For some people, this can also mean social isolation alongside the ongoing costs and constant risk of infection. To prevent the progression of these difficult symptoms, understanding what to look out for to ensure an early diagnosis and ongoing management of lymphoedema can play an incredibly important role.

How common is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema develops in one in five people who are diagnosed with breast cancer. The risk is thought to be highest in the first one to three years following breast cancer treatment, so this is a common time that you should be on alert for potential signs and symptoms.

Unfortunately, your risk never totally goes away, and some people can develop lymphoedema many years after breast cancer treatment.

What are the common signs and symptoms of lymphoedema?

We recently asked our Facebook community what early warning signs and symptoms they experienced before a diagnosis of cancer-related lymphoedema. Signs and symptoms they encourage you to look out for include:

  • An unexplained swelling in the arm or affected area
  • A feeling of heaviness in the arm or hands
  • An aching feeling in the arm, hands, or leg
  • Soreness or an uncomfortable feeling in the armpit area
  • Tight jewellery, such as rings, watches or bracelets no longer fitting
  • Tight sleeves or other tight areas of clothing
  • A bubbling sensation under the skin on the arms or legs

What happens if I think I may be developing lymphoedema after cancer treatment?

Fortunately, early detection and management of lymphoedema can help prevent its progression and assist in reducing the long-term impacts caused by the condition.

At Icon, we are proud to offer on-site lymphoedema screening services at a number of our centres across Australia to support you in receiving an early diagnosis of lymphoedema, complementing our established lymphoedema management program at Icon Cancer Centre Chermside.

Learn more about lymphoedema and screening at Icon

The content found on the Icon Cancer Centre website is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. It is not a substitute for consulting with a qualified medical professional. Our website is designed to provide information and support to the general public. Please be mindful that we do not dispense medical advice, and for personalised medical guidance, we strongly advise you to consult with a qualified medical professional or doctor.

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