The Link Between Cervical Cancer & Lymphedema: What You Need to Know

Cervical cancer awareness monthCervical Cancer and Lymphedema: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments 

Did you know that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month? Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, with over 12,000 cases diagnosed in the United States each year, with over 4,000 deaths. While cervical cancer is often treatable, especially if diagnosed early, it can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. One potential complication of cervical cancer is lymphedema, a condition that can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cervical cancer and lymphedema can help women better manage the effects of this condition.  

What is Cervical Cancer?  

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common cause of this disease. HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. It is estimated that nearly all sexually active people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives, although most people will not develop cervical cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, a weakened immune system, and a family history of cervical cancer.  

What is Lymphedema?  risk for lymphedema

Lymphedema is a condition that causes swelling, usually in the arms or legs, due to a build-up of lymphatic fluid. It is a common side effect of cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Damage to the lymphatic system can also cause lymphedema, either at birth or due to injury to the lymphatic system later in life. 

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that carries lymph, a clear fluid that contains immune cells, throughout the body. When the lymphatic system is damaged, the lymph can’t move properly, resulting in fluid build-up. The fluid build-up can lead to swelling, pain, discomfort, and infections. 

Cervical Cancer and Lymphedema: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments cervical cancer diagram

Cervical cancer and lymphedema can be linked in two ways. First, cervical cancer can cause lymphedema when cancer spreads to the lymph nodes in the pelvis. When cancer spreads, it can block the normal flow of lymph, resulting in a build-up of fluid, which can cause swelling and pain. 

Second, treatments for cervical cancer can also cause lymphedema. Surgery to remove cancer or radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells can damage the lymphatic system, leading to a build-up of fluid. In addition, chemotherapy can cause inflammation of the lymph nodes, which can also lead to lymphedema.  

Symptoms of Lymphedema  

The most common symptom of lymphedema is swelling, usually in the arms or legs. Other symptoms can include pain, tightness in the affected area, and a decreased range of motion. Lymphedema can also lead to changes in skin texture, such as thickening, and an increased risk of infection due to fluid build-up.  

MLD manual lymphatic drainageTreatments for Lymphedema  

There is no cure for lymphedema, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. These treatments can include:  

  • Manual lymphatic drainage: This massage can help reduce swelling and improve lymphatic flow.  
  • Compression garments: Wearing compression garments can help reduce swelling and provide support.  
  • Exercise: Exercise can help reduce swelling and improve the range of motion.  
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove fluid build-up. 

Conclusion  

Cervical cancer Awareness MonthIn conclusion, January is cervical cancer awareness month. This cancer is easily treatable as long as it is detected early. As cervical cancer awareness month, January would be an excellent time for women to schedule their annual pelvic exam.

 One potential complication is lymphedema, which can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort. The causes of lymphedema can include cancer itself, as well as the treatments used to treat cancer. Although the statics range widely regarding the incidence of secondary lymphedema due to cervical cancer, it’s essential to be aware of the possibility. Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphedema, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cervical cancer and lymphedema can help women better manage the effects of this condition. Your health is important; you are important. Self-care is not selfish!

 

Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice – always consult a licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.

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