Some people 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 circulate properly and builds up in the legs. Radiation therapy in the pelvic area may also cause lymphoedema.
Lymphoedema can make movement and some types of activities difficult. The swelling may appear at the time of treatment or months or years later. It is important to seek help with lymphoedema symptoms as soon as possible because 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, you can visit the Australasian Lymphology Association.
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.
For more on this, see our general section on Lymphoedema.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, no interest loans and other assistance
Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Pain and cancer
Learn how to manage the pain you may experience due to cancer and its treatment
Exercise and cancer
Exercise helps most people during cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, and watch our exercise videos
View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends