Some women who have lymph nodes removed from the pelvis (a lymphadenectomy) may find that one or both legs become swollen. This is known as lymphoedema. It can happen if lymph fluid doesn’t drain back into circulation properly and builds up in the legs. Radiation therapy in the pelvic area may also cause lymphoedema. Lymphoedema may appear at the time of treatment or months or years later.

Lymphoedema may make movement and some types of activities difficult. It is important to seek help with lymphoedema symptoms as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to better outcomes. Though lymphoedema may be permanent, it can usually be managed. Gentle exercise, compression stockings, and a type of massage called manual lymphatic drainage can all help to reduce the swelling.

To find a practitioner who specialises in managing lymphoedema, visit the Australasian Lymphology Association. For tips on preventing and managing lymphoedema, see Lymphoedema.

If your GP refers you to a lymphoedema practitioner, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate. Talk to your GP about developing a Chronic Disease Management Plan or Team Care Arrangement to help you manage the condition.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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