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Medical Health Issues

Health Issue: Lymphedema

Diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're at risk of lymphedema — for instance, if you've recently had cancer surgery involving your lymph nodes — your doctor may diagnose lymphedema based on your signs and symptoms.

If the cause of your lymphedema isn't as obvious, your doctor may order imaging tests to get a look at your lymph system. Tests may include:

  • MRI scan. Using a magnetic field and radio waves, an MRI produces 3-D, high-resolution images.
  • CT scan. This X-ray technique produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body's structures. CT scans can reveal blockages in the lymphatic system.
  • Doppler ultrasound. This variation of the conventional ultrasound looks at blood flow and pressure by bouncing high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) off red blood cells. Ultrasound can help find obstructions.
  • Radionuclide imaging of your lymphatic system (lymphoscintigraphy). During this test you're injected with a radioactive dye and then scanned by a machine. The resulting images show the dye moving through your lymph vessels, highlighting blockages.

To prepare for your appointment you can list:

  • Your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason you scheduled the appointment.
  • Key personal information, including major illnesses or trauma, other conditions, cancer treatment or life changes.
  • Medications, vitamins and any supplements that you take.
  • Questions to ask your doctor.