Lymphoedema results from obstruction of the lymph ducts and veins. Especially often this complication is observed after the treatment of breast cancer by radical surgery in conjunction with radiation therapy (approximately 10% of cases).
Other factors contributing to its development include infections, as well as ongoing illness or the onset of its recurrence. If lymphoedema occurs a few years after the initial treatment, then the most likely cause of this is tumor recurrence, affecting the axillary lymph nodes.
Edema adversely affects the appearance of the patient, causing her considerable inconvenience. Hand edema is treated with difficulty and often unsuccessfully. To improve the work of the muscle pump, patients need to assign a set of isometric exercises with their arm raised. It is extremely important to avoid infections, the patient should ensure that there are no abrasions or scratches on the skin of the hand, and wear gloves, especially when performing work related to the increased trauma of the skin and the possibility of infection (eg, in garden work).
Antibiotics should be used for inflammation. If a local tumor recurs, it is better to use methods of systemic treatment and not to prescribe an additional course of radiation therapy in order to avoid the possibility of additional radiation damage. Sometimes it is useful to wear compression dressings, which facilitate the outflow of fluid from the limb, but to achieve the effect they often have to be used for several hours.
During sleep, it is recommended to fix the hand at a certain height, placing a rolled towel or pillow under it. In oncology clinics there are patient care departments with lymphoedema staffed by specially trained personnel who conduct effective, but extremely labor-intensive procedures.