Will Moderate Lymphodema Jeopardise Lipo or Mini Tummy Tuck?

I would like to consider having the right procedure to remove belly fat. Since having a hysterectomy over 5 years ago I was left with an overhanging belly which I'd like to have removed. However, is having moderate lymphodema following breast cancer 7 years ago going to jeopardise any liposuction or mini tummy tuck procedures?

Doctor Answers 9

Belly fat may come in handy

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Before doing anything have a consultation with a local board certified plastic surgeon and a discussion with your breast/general surgeon. The presence of lymphedema in your arm will not affect the ability to perform abdominal liposuction or a tummy tuck and vice versa. However, the fact that you needed a lymph node dissection for the breast cancer may have some bearing on your chances of breast cancer recurrence, or an occurence in your other breast. It used to be said that if there was no recurrence by 10 years that you were considered "cured". Not being a breast surgeon, I don't know if this remains the case. My point is, if, God forbid, you need any further breast work done for cancer, you might want to have your tummy tissue for future breast reconstructive needs. Good luck!

I Would Expect No Major Problems

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As already stated, I think other than the usual swelling all patients have after surgery, you will be fine. 

Lymphatic massage after surgery and a compression garment (if you ever wore one) may behelpful during recovery if your arm swells. 

John LoMonaco, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 276 reviews

It all depends on your lymphodema

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 Where is your lymphodema?  In your arms?  In her abdomen?  If it is in the areas to be operating on, it may lead to healing difficulties.  However, if you are just having liposuction, it should be fine.  However, you should discuss all this with your doctors prior to surgery.

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Lymphedema and Tummy tuck

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If your lymphedema is strictly due to the surgical procedure as a post operative sequelae and there is no evidence of recurrent disease, and your general health is good otherwise, your risks should not be increased by the presence of the lymphedema. Of course, any intravenous lines should be placed into the other arm or another site.

Theodore Katz, MD, FACS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon

Abdominal procedures following breast cancer treatment

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As long as you have not had any TRAM Flap procedures or regional radiation therapy. lymphedema of the arm following breast cancer treatment should not interfere with abdominal liposuction or mini-tummy tuck procedures.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Liposuction or tummy tuck OK with lymphedema of arm.

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Your arm problem is strictly a local issue caused by previous surgery, and does not affect your general health or ability to have cosmetic surgery at all.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

Moderate lymphodema and liposuction or mini tummy tuck

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Dear Jay-Jay,

2 key questions to consider; First, WHERE is the lymphedema (arm(s), or lower abdomen)? and What is the status of your breast cancer and opposite breast?

If the abdomen is NOT involved by the lymphedema, I would still not rush in and do liposuction or a tummy tuck UNLESS I was certain that this area will never need to be used to reconstruct one of your breasts. Doing these procedures will effectively remove tissue which could potentially be very useful in breast reconstruction.

Moreover, liposuction may empty the fat content in the "overhang" but is not certain to shrink the skin, leaving you looking flatter in clothes but still having loose skin there.

Check with your surgeon and ask his/her opinion before you burn any bridges.

Good Luck.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Lymphedema and liposuction/ tummy tuck

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 The lymphedema that you developed in your arm as a result of breast cancer surgery should in now way affect liposuction of your abdomen or your tummy tuck.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Lymphedema is a well described consequence of the breast surgery

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Dear Jay Jay

Typically, a lymph node dissection is performed with many types of breast cancer surgery to facilitate staging of the cancer. The number of lymph node that are positive or negative for containing breast cancer relate to the long term prognosis. The removal and disruption of the lymphatic drainage system that occurs with the removal to the lymph nodes accounts for the lymphedema. This can eventually resolve but can also persist in a certain percentage of individuals.

While there is significant swelling of the abdominal wall associated with the tummy tuck or even body liposuction, there is no reason to believe that the lymphedema will have any effect or even factor into your recovery from a tummy tuck.

Liposuction is performed by several types of specialists practicing cosmetic surgery including dermatologists who have the best track record for safety, general plastic surgeons, and others including gynecologists who have shifted their surgical practice to cosmetic. However, when it comes to a tummy tuck, you should look for a board certified general plastic surgeon who devotes a consider portion of their practice to body wall surgery. The credentials alone are not adequate.

Check with the medical board of your state to determine if there are actions in the past or pending against your potential surgeon. Carefully study the before and after photos on their website, and if possible find others who have used the surgeon to have the type of surgery you are considering to learn of their experience. Your consultation should be unheared and the surgeon should be interested in answering your questions. In particular, they should ask you about you current heal and go into specific details regarding your breast cancer history and how you are doing now.

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.