About Gynecologic Cancer and Lymphedema
Andrea Branas, MSE, MPT, Andrea Cheville, MD, Lora Packel, M.S.P.T.
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: September 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission in writing from the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is when fluid (lymph) collects and causes swelling (edema). It is rare to get lymphedema after gynecologic cancer treatment. If it does happen, it will be in the legs, abdomen or genitals. Surgery where lymph nodes are removed or radiation treatment close to lymph nodes puts you at risk for lymphedema.
Can I Prevent Lymphedema?
- Avoid tight clothes and tight bands on socks or underwear
- Do not get a needle or blood drawn from the area
- Avoid heat and burns, including the sun
- Protect from insect bites, cuts and bruises
- Do not cut cuticles
- Be careful clipping toenails
- Use an electric razor to avoid cuts
- Do not go barefoot or wear open toe shoes
How Do I Know If I Have Lymphedema?
The following are symptoms of lymphedema. Please tell your doctor or nurse about:
- Swelling that does not go away or comes back after raising legs
- If you press on your leg with your thumb, the thumb print stays
- Clothes or shoes feel tight
- Pain, tingling, ache or legs feel heavy
Can you treat Lymphedema?
Yes! A person trained in lymphedema therapy can treat lymphedema. Therapy includes:
- Massage that works to get fluid out of the swollen body part (called Manual Lymphatic Drainage --MLD)
- Special bandages that wrap the swollen area to help remove fluid
- Care of skin and nails to prevent infection
- Gentle exercise to help move lymph out of the area
- A garment that allows you to keep the fluid out of the area after therapy is over (Compression Garment)
We can offer treatment to help lymphedema. Talk to your doctor or nurse about seeing a therapist.