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Lymphoedema and cancer: an overview

10 February 2022
5 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 3

Abstract

Secondary lymphoedema is a common concern for people with cancer. Trevor Bott, Clinical Trials Database Nurse, Cancer Research UK (Trevor.Bott@cancer.org.uk) discusses the links and its impact on quality of life

A diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event. It can cause disruptions to the person who has cancer and to their family. This disruption arises not only from the diagnosis itself but also from the treatment and the side effects thereof. The disruptions caused by the treatment and side effects are short lived in some cases, such as nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, but other treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery can have longer-term side effects that can affect the person's life in a more profound way. For most people surgery is the initial treatment for cancer, which can then be followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Apart from the possible immediate side effects of surgery it can also lead to long-term side effects. One possible long-term side effect is lymphoedema—this is especially true for breast cancer surgery and pelvic cancer surgery such as for vulval cancer and penile cancer. For people undergoing surgery for breast cancer, lymphoedema has been reported as one of the most significant concerns that could affect life after cancer (O'Brien, 2021).

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