Resources and Surgeries to Treat Lymphedema

Lymphedema is swelling in an extremity caused by an abnormal collection of fluid beneath the skin. The condition can occur after cancer treatment, particularly when patients have lymph nodes removed, causing lymphatic fluid to accumulate.

Patients might experience the early signs of lymphedema within two years of lymph node removal surgery, but for others, lymphedema is a long-term effect of treatment, causing chronic swelling, decreased range of motion and pain.
 

Signs and symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Heaviness and tightness in the extremities
  • Decreased range of motion in the affected limb
  • Slight puffiness or swelling of the limb or nearby tissue
  • Changes in skin texture, such as hardening or redness
     
City of Hope is one of the few cancer centers in the country to offer microsurgery for severe cases of lymphedema, including:
  • Lymphaticovenous bypass: Also known as LVA, this outpatient procedure redirects the lymph fluid to small veins.
  • Vascularized lymph node transfers: This procedure transplants lymph nodes from elsewhere in the body to replace those removed as part of cancer treatment.
     
If you are experiencing severe lymphedema, speak with your doctor to see if one of these surgeries might be right for you.
 
City of Hope also offers occupational therapists specializing in lymphedema treatments, including weekly massages to help move the lymphatic fluid out of the affected area and back into the lymphatic system.
 
Our therapists also teach at-home exercises, such as stretching, strengthening and range-of-motion techniques to improve the movement of fluid and increase use of the affected limb. Compression garments or bandaging can also be an affective treatment.
 

Learn more about lymphedema