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Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is swelling of part of the body, usually the legs or the arms.

It may occur after treatment for vulval cancer if you have had the lymph nodes in your abdomen removed (lymphadenectomy). Women who have had surgery followed by radiotherapy are particularly at risk.

Removal of the nodes may prevent normal draining of the lymph fluid from the legs. As a result, fluid can build up in one or both legs causing swelling. This usually doesn’t occur until some time after treatment.

If you have problems, seek immediate help as symptoms are better managed if treated early. Seek advice from your specialist or nurse.

Some hospitals have specialist physiotherapists who can help reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema.

Tips:

  • Gently massage the swollen leg towards your heart to move the fluid out to other lymph channels.
  • Wear special bandages, stockings or a compression garment to help remove fluid.
  • Avoid infection by caring for your skin and nails.
  • Exercise the leg to help move fluid out of the area and into other lymph channels.
  • Avoid injections in your legs.
  • Keep the leg raised higher than the heart when you can.