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What is Lymphedema?

Information about the types, symptoms, and stages of lymphedema.

Axillary Web Syndrome

Axillary Web syndrome (AWS), which is commonly known as cording, occurs in some patients after breast cancer surgery.

  • The term AXILLARY refers to the arm pit.
  • The term CORDING describes a condition in which the skin lies over cords of firm tissue.
  • These cords can be felt by palpating (touching) the arm pit.  
  • When the arm is raised upward, as if waving to someone, the affected tissues become painful.
Filariasis is also known as either  lymphatic filariasis or as elephantiasis. It is a devastating infection that is spread by parasitic mosquitoes in tropical countries. This condition is totally unlike either primary or secondary lymphedema. Rather it is an infection that occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. <more...>
Malformations of the Lymphatic Systems
Malformations of the lymphatic system are rare conditions  caused by abnormal prenatal development of the lymphatic system.

These malformations can affect any body part and can  be detected on prenatal ultrasounds.Although early detection is possible, these problems cannot be cured.

Primary Lymphedema
Secondary Lymphedema

Secondary lymphedema is an acquired disorder caused by damage to the lymphatic system. Cancer treatment is the single largest cause of this condition.

Truncal Lymphedema
Truncal lymphedema frequently develops following breast or lung cancer treatment and can be present with or without significant involvement of the adjacent arm.

Truncal lymphedema is the pain, and/or swelling, of the breast, chest, back and underarm area that is due to the buildup of lymphatic fluid. It often presents differently than arm edema because inaddition to the fullness, heaviness, or discomfort that you feel when you have arm lymphedema, with breast lymphedema you can also have degrees of discomfort varying from mild to severe pain.

Pain in the affected area may be the first symptom before swelling is obvious.

Updated Lymphedema Statistics
In September 2014 the NLN held a meeting in Washington, D.C.
At this meeting, the following new definitions regarding lymphedema were announced:
  • Lymphedema is a cardiovascular disease that impacts the quality of life and overall health.
  • Lymphedema is frequently misdiagnosed. This causes the condition to be treated either late or not to be treated at all.
  • Lymphedema is a common complication of all types of cancer treatment.
  • Lymphedema prevalence of due to cancer treatment has increased steadily from 0.95% of cancer patients in 2007 to 1.243% in 2013.
  • In the United States there are currently over 121,000 people
    with cancer related lymphedema. 

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