How is lymph edema distinguished from other forms of edema? At least a month before my father underwent hip replacement surgery (left side) he developed swelling in both calves and ankles. During the week following surgery, he was diagnosed with cancer (tumor in the left kidney and multiple tumors in the left lung), but I am not aware that cancer is present in the lymph nodes and no lymph nodes have been removed. He began chemotherapy (carboplatin and taxol) about 6 weeks after the hip surgery. The edema persisted after the surgery but suddenly subsided about 8 weeks into the course of chemotherapy (or 14 weeks after surgery). My father's primary physician told him he thought the elimination of the edema was a sign that the chemotherapy is working. Yet, now following his latest set of CAT scans, we come to find out that the cancer has grown and spread. So, I am wondering if the edema and the cancer are truly linked or not. Any insights you might have are appreciated.
The main difference in edema caused by an impaired lymph system as opposed to an edema related to a heart or kidney problem is the protein content. Lymphedema conditions have a higher concentration of protein.Other differences are that the edema related to a problem with the lymph system is generally one-sided ,it is firm to the touch, and elevation is effective initially. Edema from heart or kidney problems tends to be both extremities, it is soft and doughy to the touch, and elevation is always effective.
If the patient has involvement with the lymph nodal system by the cancer he/she are at more risk for developing edema within the area that the lymph nodes drain. The lymph nodes can not only be effected by direct tumor involvement and compression by the tumor, but they can be influenced by treatments such as radiation , chemotherapy and surgery. It is not uncommon that the lymph nodes will shrink post treatment and begin to allow the area effected to rid itself of the fluid retention.
Janet Scheetz, PT