Coping with lymphoedema

Find out what lymphoedema is, what the symptoms are and what support is available.

Find the answers to the frequently asked questions surrounding lymphoedema. If you have a question that isn't covered here, please feel free to call our support line on 020 7923 5475 or speak to your GP.

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is an excess of fluid in body tissues caused by a blockage of the lymph system, which filters and clears excess body fluid. In women with ovarian cancer this fluid is most likely to collect in your legs or possibly your pelvic area.

Who is at risk of lymphoedema?

Women who have had surgical treatment for ovarian cancer can be at risk of lymphoedema if their surgery has involved removing sections of the lymphatic system like lymph nodes. Lymphoedema caused by cancer treatment is known as secondary lymphoedema.

What are the symptoms of lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema can cause swollen, heavy legs, reduced mobility and changes in your appearance, which may be difficult to cope with. Without treatment the symptoms can worsen and become more severe, so it's important to let your medical team know if you're experiencing these. 

How can I manage my lymphoedema?

Although there is no cure, there are lots of ways to manage the symptoms of lymphoedema. Elevating your legs, gentle exercise, good skin care and eating a high-protein diet (including lots of fish, meat, eggs and cheese) can help, and your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can give you practical advice on how best to cope. If the lymphoedema worsens you can be referred to a lymphoedema specialist practitioner who may suggest massage to help with drainage, together with support stockings and bandages.

How do I find out more?
  • The Lymphoedema Support Network offers further information and support to people living with or affected by lymphoedema.
  • Macmillan have more information on what causes lymphoedema, how to manage it and where to get support.
  • Our nurse advisers are available to answer your questions about all aspects of ovarian cancer on our support line.