Lymphedema is the painful swelling experienced by most breast cancer patients after surgery. It can develop in the breast, arm, hand and torso on the side from which lymph nodes were removed during breast cancer surgery.
This swelling results when lymph vessels can’t carry fluid away from the area, and it can lead to decreased range of movement and infection on the affected side. The more lymph nodes that are removed during breast cancer surgery, the more likely lymphedema will result. Usually its onset is checked through tests on changes in the flow of lymph fluids.
In a new study, researchers found measuring lymph flow using bio-impedance spectroscopy helped prompt earlier intervention. This device uses electrical current to assess body fluid volume.
With usual tests lymphedema isn’t diagnosed until swelling becomes obvious, when it can’t be reversed, study author Dr. Lyndsey Kilgore explained.
“A woman may not notice the swelling yet, but the whole point is we’re detecting it sooner so we can intervene sooner,” said Kilgore, a resident in the department of surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
“If women know we can detect lymphedema sooner, it will probably ease a lot of patients’ minds,” she added.
Newer lymph node removal techniques, including sentinel lymph node biopsy, remove only one or a few lymph nodes from the area, leaving patients at lower risk of developing lymphedema afterward.
Historically, rates of breast cancer-related lymphedema in high-risk patients — defined in the study as those who underwent lymph node removal and radiation and/or chemotherapy — range from 20 percent to 40 percent, according to Kilgore.
She and her colleagues evaluated 146 women considered at high risk for lymphedema over three years.
Lymphedema detection, continues to be an important problem among breast cancer surgery patients. Once detected, physical therapy is often prescribed along with home treatment, both of which can reduce associated side effects.
Source: Health Day News