Lymph nodes, lymph vessels and lymph fluid L are all part of the immune system. Up to 42% of women who have surgery and/or radiation for breast cancer get arm lymphedema (abnormal swelling) caused by damage to the lymphatic system.

A recent study followed 64 women with breast cancer-related lymphedema. Most of them overweight, they followed a low-fat diet, a reduced-calorie diet or their usual diet for 24 weeks.

Result: Among the women who lost weight (about six to nine pounds), arm swelling decreased by 15%.

My view: Lymphedema can swell an arm to three times its normal size. Unless treated, this can become permanent as fat and fibrous tissue increase, skin thickens and lymph fluid becomes "fixed" in the arm. For overweight patients, losing weight can help to relieve lymphedema, perhaps by increasing the muscles' ability to pump out lymph and by reducing excess fat that presses on lymph vessels.

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