What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a long-term (chronic) swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues.

Lymphoedema can develop after cancer if:

  • you have surgery to remove the lymph nodes
  • you have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes
  • the cancer blocks a lymph node or some lymph vessels.

What are the signs and symptoms to look out for?

  • With leg lymphoedema, you may notice swelling in your leg, foot, toes, lower tummy, buttocks or genital area.
  • The swelling may be less in the morning and increase as the day goes on. This swelling may be soft or hard depending on how long you have had it.

Other possible signs include:

  • A feeling of tightness when wearing clothing, shoes, bracelets, watches, or rings.
  • A full, heavy, achy or weak feeling in the arm or leg
  • A tight feeling in the skin. Skin may also be dry, flaky, rough or scaly
  • Changes to your skin colour
  • Trouble moving your arm or leg

Irish Cancer Society Logo221+ Patient Support Group thanks the Irish Cancer Society for permission to use the text of their booklet Reducing Your Risk of Arm and Leg Lymphoedema
and acknowledges the contribution of the original authors of the booklet.