Lymphedema After Breast Cancer

Lymphedema After Breast Cancer

For many women, the diagnosis of breast cancer is a major turning point in their lives.

The focus on treatment, which can include breast reconstruction in addition to breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can be all-consuming as well as physically and emotionally difficult. Just as they have completed their cancer treatment, some survivors face a new challenge: lymphedema.

Lymphedema involves swelling of an arm or a portion of the breast in patients who had a lumpectomy for cancer. This is most common in patients who had some or all of their lymph nodes removed and/or had radiation to this area, though it may occur in patients who have only had mastectomies as well. The swelling may start at the fingertips and extend all the way up to the armpit. The symptoms of lymphedema can be debilitating and prevent a patient from living a full and active life as well as being a constant reminder of their cancer diagnosis.

In patients who underwent radiation for cancer in their lymph nodes, they may also develop a contracture or scar across their armpit which limits full range of motion of their arm.

Fortunately, we have surgical options for treating lymphedema after breast cancer. Personally, I find taking care of these patients to be some of the most rewarding cases that I do because of how much I am able to accomplish.

Surgical Treatment

Depending on your specific issue, some surgical options include:

Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis (LVA)

LVA is a minimally invasive procedure that creates a new pathway for lymphatic flow in your arm

Lymph Node Transfer

Lymph node transfer involves takes lymph nodes from your lower abdomen and transferring them into your armpit area. Any axillary contracture or armpit tightness can be released at the same time.

Lymph Node Transfer with DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

For patients who have lymphedema and would also like a breast reconstruction with their own tissue, we can take the lymph nodes together with soft, fatty tissue from your abdomen to make a soft, natural breast and reconstruct the lymph nodes at the same time.

Schedule My Consultation

We offer both virtual and in person consultations in New York and New Jersey. Every surgical plan is completely individualized and tailored to the specific patient, her problems and goals.

If you’re ready to schedule your lymphedema surgery or simply want to learn more about the procedure, our doctors can give you the answers and reassurance you need to make the decision that’s right for you. To schedule your private consultation, call 212-628-7300.