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Swelling in arm after breast cancer

Swelling of the arm on the side of your breast cancer surgery can be due to lymph nodes under the arm being removed or changed by radiation of the armpit. After an injury anywhere in the body, lymph fluid will rush to the injured site to carry away bacteria and any foreign substances. If that injured area is on a hand or arm where you have had surgery and radiation, the lymph fluid will have a harder time being absorbed normally because surgery has removed some of the channels that would have carried the fluid. Radiation can close down some of those lymph channels also. Once surgery and radiation are complete, the focus should be on preventing injury and stress to the affected hand, shoulder and arm to lower the chance of lymph fluid causing swelling of the arm. If you are a person who has had armpit surgery to test lymph nodes for cancer cells, or if you have received radiation to the armpit, you may want to think about ways to prevent arm swelling.
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Interventions for preventing lymphoedema (swelling of the arm) after breast cancer treatment

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Lymphedema (PDQ®)–Patient Version - National Cancer Institute

Find out about lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment, including how you can lower your risk of getting it and how to manage it. The lymphatic system carries clear watery fluid called lymph, which drains out from the small blood vessels capillaries into the body tissues. Cancer or cancer treatment can affect the fluid drainage channels of the lymphatic system. Fluid then doesn't drain in the normal way, so the area swells.
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A Step-By-Step Guide to Arm Lymphedema Exercises

Breast cancer treatment , unfortunately, can have long-term complications. The idea behind arm exercises is that muscle contractions in your arm may help move lymph fluid back to the veins in your armpit and neck; returning the fluid to your blood circulation. When the lymph fluid goes back into circulation, your swelling should go down. These simple gentle exercises can help the proteins in lymph fluid to be reabsorbed, and your arm lymphedema symptoms to diminish or disappear.
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The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump. But it should be noted the majority of breast lumps are benign and not cancerous. A change in size, shape or feel of a breast, breast pain, skin changes, and fluid leaking from the nipple are other signs to look out for. But if the breast cancer becomes advanced other areas of the body may be affected. One sign which indicates the disease has developed is swelling in the arm or hand, known as lymphoedema.

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