Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema Treatment Program

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center offers lymphedema screening for women who have been treated for breast cancer.
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Our program's multidisciplinary team includes works together to:

  • Ensure ongoing screening
  • Educate patients about risk factors, signs and symptoms
  • Provide top-notch management

If lymphedema is detected, we design an individualized treatment plan focusing on physical therapy.

A Leader in Prospective Screening

We screen for breast cancer-related lymphedema in all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. We treat the condition in its earliest stages.  We have evaluated more than 2,500 breast cancer patients.

Research: a Program Priority

Our program is conducting a large, federally funded clinical trial on early detection and intervention for lymphedema in patients treated for breast cancer. The study evaluates the effectiveness of using compression garments to prevent or slow the progression of lymphedema. Patients will be fitted by a certified lymphedema therapist for compression garments. All our patients are welcome to enroll. Participation is voluntary.

Meet the Team

The Lymphedema Studies Program, part of the Center for Breast Cancer, launched in 2005 under the leadership of Alphonse Taghian, MD, PhD.

See the complete team treating Breast Cancer related Lymphedema

Patient Education

Information about Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema

Lymphedema is swelling caused by fluid that collects in the tissues under the skin.  This fluid is called “lymph.”

Patients who have undergone surgery or radiation therapy for breast cancer have greater risk of developing lymphedema. Breast cancer-related lymphedema can occur in the breast, chest wall, arm and/or hand.


Possible early signs of breast cancer-related lymphedema include:

  • Puffiness or swelling
  • Clothing, bra or jewelry that feels tighter than usual or leaves a dent or mark on the skin
  • A feeling of fullness in the affected area
  • A feeling of heaviness or fatigue in the affected area
  • An area of the skin that is red or warm to the touch

Screening and Diagnosis

Before breast cancer surgery, your doctor may begin screening for lymphedema by measuring the size and volume of each of your arms. Further measurements are then taken at post-surgery visits to monitor for signs of swelling.

A diagnosis of breast cancer-related lymphedema may be confirmed through a physical examination, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or radionuclide imaging of the lymphatic system (a test known as lymphoscintigraphy).

Lymphedema Treatment

Your individualized treatment plan for breast cancer-related lymphedema will take into account your disease stage, body mass index (BMI), personal goals and general health.

Lymphedema therapy typically focuses on physical therapy, including massage and safely controlled exercise. Wearing a compression glove or sleeve during the day or at night may also help with lymphedema management.

Learn more about Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema

Clinical Trials


If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our team members, please call 617-643-1306.

Request and Appointment Request a Remote Second Opinion

Make an appointment 617-643-1306

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