Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid that causes swelling of an extremity. It occurs after trauma to or removal of the lymph nodes.
Anyone who has a lymph node dissection and, often, radiation therapy, is at risk of developing lymphedema. Lymphedema can occur immediately after surgery or within a few months, a few years, or more than 20 years afterward. Take extra care of your arm on the affected side to prevent lymphedema (swelling) in that arm.
An exercise program should be followed at least twice daily for 6-8 weeks following surgery to prevent loss of mobility and muscle weakness. Your surgeon will decide when it is an appropriate time for you to start an exercise program. If you follow the prescribed program daily, you should have no permanent disability as a result of the surgery.
If you notice redness, increased temperature, rash, blistering or swelling of the affected arm or leg, call your doctor immediately.