New Techniques for Lymphedema
The really good news is that more attention is being paid to lymphedema and surgeons are increasingly willing to acknowledge that it happens, and that women should be educated about the possibilities even prior to surgery. The not so good news is that it continues to happen, that it is impossible to predict who will develop this problem, and that it is treatable, but not curable. The statistics re incidence are all over the place, so no one seems to really know how many women have been affected.
Women who have a full axillary dissection (as opposed to a sentinel node dissection) and radiation are the most at risk. However, most of those women never develop lymphedema, and some women who have had less surgery and no radiation still later have the problem. There is a great deal of information on the website of the National Lymphedema Network (www.lymphnet.org) ; be aware that they, appropriately, take this very seriously, and you may be quite concerned after reading their site.
This is a report from the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. The article suggests that newer techniques, such as acupuncture, may limit the development of lymphdema and strongly encourages surgeons to talk about this problem with their patients. Here is the beginning and a link to read more:
New techniques hold promise for swollen arms in breast cancer patients
by EMILY NELSON
May 2, 2013
Early screening and alternative treatment approaches such as acupuncture to treat
lymphedema, swelling of the arms and legs, could prevent costly and time consuming treatment plans for
breast cancer patients.
Dr. Sheldon Marc Feldman, chief of surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital, spoke about a pre-emptive
treatment approach for the common side effect in breast cancer patients during the second day of the
annual meeting for the American Society of Breast Surgeons at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown
The National Lymphedema Network defines lymphedema as the accumulation of fluid in the lymph vessels
that can develop when lymphatic nodes and vessels are missing, damaged or removed. Swelling in the
arms and legs is common in breast cancer patients because lymph nodes are often damaged or removed
http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=221010during surgery or radiation therapies.