pastel by PattyRice,

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic medical condition characterized by swelling (edema) resulting from excess lymphatic fluid (lymph) accumulating in the skin and other tissues. Lymphedema results when lymph transport capacity is reduced by injury (such as cancer treatment), other medical conditions (obesity, lipedema, chronic venous insufficiency, etc.), or congenital defects. Uncontrolled lymphedema may result in discomfort, disfigurement, and functional impairments.

Lymphedema affects three to five million Americans, including 20-40% of cancer survivors. Self-care for this condition is essential. Specialized lymphedema therapists provide treatment and training in self-care. 

Dr. McMahon has a long-standing interest in this condition. She has written four books for patients and caregivers (see Lymphedema Books by Dr. McMahon) including a book on the emotional challenges of lymphedema. For information on how Dr. McMahon can help you live well with lymphedema, see Coping with Chronic Medical Conditions.

She has also become a popular speaker at meetings for lymphedema therapists and other medical professionals. These articles are based on material from her workshops: Preventing Personal Burnout, Understanding and Responding to Noncompliance.

In addition to the articles available here, Dr. McMahon has written:

  • “Home-Based Lymphedema Treatment in Patients With and Without Cancer-Related Lymphedema” – S. H. Ridner, RN, PhD, E. McMahon, PhD, M. S. Dietrich PhD, and S. Hoy, Esq. Oncology Nursing Forum, 35(4): 671-680, 2008. Link: