Breast cancer is often treated by removing breast, or the tumor from the breast. In breast cancer surgeries, possible metastases and often lymph nodes are also removed from the armpit. Removing lymph nodes might expose the patient to upper extremity swelling and developing lymphedema after mastectomy.
Removing lymph nodes might affect the function of lymphatic system, and weaken the ability to move lymph fluids.
Radiotherapy directed to the spot where lymph nodes have been removed might increase the risk of developing lymphedema in the treated area. Radiation directed to supraclavicular fossa might also damage the lymphatic system, cause fibrosis to the tissue, and weaken the lymph flow.
Arm swelling and pain are common problems after breast cancer surgeries and radiation. The swelling might develop in the arm, chest or the armpit. The swollen hand might also easily become infected.