Lymphedema After A Mastectomy: Will Breast Reconstruction Surgery Affect This?

Lymphedema after mastectomyThe below question is answered by Dr. James Craigie of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

Lymphedema after mastectomy. What will reconstruction surgery do to my lymphedema if anything? 

The lymphedema is a difficult problem and it is directly related to having a mastectomy as well as removal of the lymph nodes under the arm.  It happens more frequently when these procedures are followed by radiation.  It is a combined effect and we do not understand why some people have it and some people don’t.  We feel that there is something with regard to someone’s anatomy that makes one person more prone to lymphedema.  There have been people who get lymphedema of the arm even after a sentinel node procedure although it is rare.  Therefore, it is important to know if reconstruction surgery of the breast can impact lymphedema.  There have been some studies to show that actually a healthy reconstruction of the breast may improve someone’s lymphedema.  It is unlikely to cure it but there have been situations when the reconstruction has helped if not minimize it.  Other things to expect while undergoing reconstruction or any surgery of the entire body may have become more swollen and therefore people who have lymphedema may see an increase in the size of the arm following breast reconstruction surgery or any other surgery for that matter.  Therefore, leading up to surgery we made sure that they have been compliant in performing their compression daily routines as well as massage helps and frequent follow-ups with their lymphedema therapist may be beneficial as well.  After surgery we have our patient seen by the lymphedema therapist to have their arm appropriately treated with massage and customized compression.

-Dr. James Craigie

The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

Have questions for our surgeons? Submit your questions today and get answers straight form our surgical team! No matter where you are in your reconstruction process, we are here to help!