Treating lymphedema after breast cancer


Lymphedema symptoms can include swelling in the hands or feet.

Katherine Konosky is making a presentation on lymphedema on Saturday, April 12 at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Summit. See more details below about this free event.

As many as 10 million Americans suffer from lymphedema, which causes swelling in arms, legs or other parts of the body. It can be a frustrating and chronic long-term side effect of cancer treatment. Although it is more common than multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer – combined – lymphedema has historically been little understood, even by health care professionals. The good news is that with improved imaging equipment, we are understanding more about the function of the lymphatic system. Continue reading

Five FAQs about lymphedema

Becky Eggleston, RN OCN, is one of four oncology nurses with the U-M Cancer AnswerLine™

Becky Eggleston, RN OCN, is one of four oncology nurses with the U-M Cancer AnswerLine™

Our bodies have a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. This network collects fluid, debris and other things that are in the body’s tissue, outside the bloodstream. Lymph vessels are a lot like the veins that collect and carry blood through the body. But instead of carrying blood, these vessels carry the clear watery fluid called lymph. Here is information about lymphedema, a medical condition affecting this network.

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling that happens when the flow of lymph fluid is damaged or blocked, and as a result does not drain normally. When the lymph fluid cannot drain, it collects under the skin and in the soft tissues of the body making the affected area feel heavy, tight and painful. Lymphedema usually involves an arm or leg, but other parts of the body can also be affected.

Why does lymphedema happen?

For those with a cancer diagnosis, lymphedema can develop as a result of surgery, radiation therapy treatment or tumor growth. Continue reading

Symptom Management is an Ongoing Process

Symptom Management is an Ongoing ProcessRecently, an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out that side effects from cancer treatment can last for years after the cancer has been considered cured. The article notes, “the LIVESTRONG Survey for Post-Treatment Cancer Survivors . . . found 98% of cancer survivors experienced a variety of physical, emotional and practical concerns.”  This can include fatigue, memory problems or lymphedema.

The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program offers a clinic which focuses on helping eliminate or alleviate the side effects of cancer and/or its treatment to patients – both current and former – are faced with.  About 40% of the patients seen by the clinic are referred to physical or occupational therapy .  They are working on focusing services to cancer patients so even more can be referred.  Many patient need help building strength, Walker says.  They are often referred to yoga instructors in their communities or provided with instructions on how to start a walking program.

If you are (or were) a patient of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and are experiencing fatigue, lymphedema or any other possible side effect from your treatment, contact the clinic at 877-907-0859.

Continue learning about cancer-related fatigue and symptom management


Check out U-M Cancer Center events

Jan. 10

Lymphedema Class
1:30-2:30 p.m.
Level 1, U-M Cancer Center

Lymphedema is a side effect of cancer surgery that can be prevented and managed. Join our lymphedema experts from the U-M Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy to learn more about upper extremity lymphedema and how you can manage it. This class is open to patients undergoing cancer surgery involving the arm, chest or back. Space is limited, and registration is required. Call 1-877-408-7377 to learn more.

Jan. 13

Bandito’s Supports the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center
10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Bandito’s Restaurant, 216 S. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor

Mention the words “Cancer Center” when you place your order at Bandito’s, and the restaurant will donate 30 percent of your bill the the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Patient and Family Support Services Program. This offer is available for dine-in, carry-out or delivery orders. To learn more, call the restaurant at 734-996-0234.

Jan. 18

Acrylic Painting: Interpreting the Emotion of Color
11 a.m.-1 p.m. or 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Level 1, U-M Cancer Center

This month’s Art Studio will focus on working with monochromatic color palettes. Participants will create a painting that is an exploration of one emotion. Additional materials will be available for creating multimedia paintings. This program, which is part of the donor-supported Art Therapy Program, is available free of charge to U-M cancer patients and their families. Space is limited, and registration is required. Please call 1-877-408-7377.

Jan. 21

Free Cervical Cancer Screening
1 p.m.-4 p.m.
U-M Livonia Health Center, 20321 Farmington Road

Cervical cancer will kill more than 4,000 American women this year, but proper screening can save lives. More than half of all cervical cancer cases affect women ages 30 to 55. Hispanic and African-American women are at highest risk. This free screening is open to any woman older than 21 who has not had a Pap test in the past two years and who does not have medical insurance that covers a Pap test. Call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 1-800-865-1125 to schedule an appointment.

Jan. 28

Tim O’Brien Trivia Night
O’Kelly Knights of Columbus, Dearborn

Compete for prizes at Tim O’Brien Trivia Night. Proceeds from the event–which will feature appetizers and pizza along with drawings–will support the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. Cost is $20. For more information or to register, email

Do you have a cancer-related event you’d like to promote? Let us know!