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JAMA Oncology Patient Page
March 1, 2018


JAMA Oncol. Published online March 1, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.5553

Lymphedema is a buildup of “lymph,” a body fluid containing infection-fighting cells.

It occurs when the lymphatic system, consisting of thin vessels and lymph nodes, is damaged or blocked. It commonly affects the arm or leg but can also affect other parts of the body such as the neck.

Cancer itself may damage lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels. More commonly, surgery, including the removal of lymph nodes, and radiation therapy may cause scarring, which can result in lymphedema. For example, a surgeon may remove lymph nodes from the armpit of a patient with breast cancer.

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