Amputation is the most obvious long-term effect of surgery on the extremities, but many other cancer operations also require sampling of regional lymph nodes. Lymphedema is a not uncommon late effect of these procedures. While this may have no noticeable downstream effects, like in colorectal cancer, when it involves dissection of lymph nodes draining the extremities, as in axillary dissection for breast cancer or a groin dissection in melanoma, it risks leaving patients without sufficient lymphatic drainage from a limb. The resultant lymphedema may take several years to become clinically apparent as fluid accumulation in the tissues is initially restricted by counteracting hydrostatic pressure within those tissues. As the tissues stretch and expand, however, the lymphedema accelerates. Functional disability from stiffness, pain, limited range of motion, and predisposition to cellulitis (which can further damage lymphatics and exacerbate lymphedema), coupled with the cosmetic effects, can be devastating. As a result, sentinel lymph node sampling is increasingly being used for cancers in such sites as the breast and skin (melanoma) in hopes of decreasing this morbidity. Early recognition of the potential for lymphedema and detection of subclinical swelling can allow institution of measures to prevent its progression such as massage, compression garments, and avoidance of infection, blood pressure cuff use, and blood draws in the affected limb.
Was this article helpful?
Learning About 10 Ways Fight Off Cancer Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life The Best Tips On How To Keep This Killer At Bay Discovering that you or a loved one has cancer can be utterly terrifying. All the same, once you comprehend the causes of cancer and learn how to reverse those causes, you or your loved one may have more than a fighting chance of beating out cancer.