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Arm lymphoedema (swelling of the arm) in breast cancer patients can occur months or years after their treatment. It is a chronic condition and occurs when there is a disruption to the lymphatic flow during breast cancer treatment. It can affect up to 40% of breast cancer patients.
To find out about other conditions listed, please visit Breast Conditions on www.kkh.com.sg.
The main symptom is swelling of the arm on the same side of the breast cancer. There may also be associated feeling of tightness and heaviness of the arm and hand.
In severe cases, the ability to move the affected arm can be restricted. In addition, there is an increased risk of skin infection which can lead to skin breakdown and changes.
After breast cancer treatment,
Measuring blood pressure involves a simple cuff on the arm which is inflated above the pressure in the arteries, and then rapidly deflated to record the blood pressure. There is no evidence that this makes any difference to the risk of developing lymphoedema or worsen an established lymphedema. However, if you have established lymphedema, the changes in the volume of the arm may affect the accuracy of the recording and for this reason, using the other arm would be more sensible.
Arm lymphedema can occur secondary to breast cancer treatments such as undergoing an axilla surgery especially axillary clearance (removal of all the axilla lymph nodes) and/or radiotherapy.
Obesity and arm infection can also increase the risk of development of lymphoedema.
This is established from your history and physical examination. Imaging tests, measures of volume tests etc may be conducted.