Help for Lymphedema

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – It's a condition that causes swelling, pain and even disfigurement. Lymphedema affects about 40-percent of breast cancer patients who have lymph node surgery and radiation. There's no cure for the condition but a new procedure is offering patients hope.

Michaelanne Cox loves to play with her corgi's Eddie and Irene and she loves to compete with them in the show ring. But Michaelanne feared she might be sidelined when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her doctor said she was at risk for lymphedema.

"I think some people who have lymphedema have a tremendous amount of pain, they have a tremendous amount of swelling and it really compromises their quality of life" Cox told Ivanhoe.

Lymphedema happens when fluid collects under the skin and the result is swelling that can be painful.  Christine Rohde, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Surgery of the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, says the condition mostly affects patients who have had all of their lymph nodes removed and have undergone radiation in their armpits. "The lymphatics, which drain fluid from the arm and keep arms from swelling, can become blocked from the auxiliary surgery" Doctor Rohde explained.

There is no cure for lymphedema but a new clinical trial is aiming to prevent the condition. Doctors are performing a special procedure at the same time they remove lymph nodes that's called the LYMPHA. Doctor Rohde said, "It reattaches the tiny veins in your arm to the lymphatic system to prevent lymphedema."

21 patients have been treated so far and only one is still showing signs of lymphedema. Michaelanne has been happy with her results, "I think it definitely helped prevent the development of lymphedema in my arm which could have been really bad" said Cox.

Now she can enjoy time with her pups, without worrying about pain holding her back.

The LYMPHA procedure only adds 20 to 30 minutes to breast cancer surgery and poses a small bleeding risk. This clinical trial still ongoing and accepting new patients. If you are interested in enrolling, you can contact the cancer center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York for details.