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Innovative Technique Seeks to Prevent Lymphedema in Breast Cancer Patients
Date:7/23/2013

New York, NY (PRWEB) July 23, 2013

A team of surgeons and members of the breast cancer program of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center is conducting a two-year pilot study of an innovative microsurgery technique coupled with imaging technology to not only prevent lymphedema but also potentially detect and treat it early.

Lymphedema, the accumulation of lymph fluid in the arm and painful swelling due to blocked lymph drainage, occurs in up to 13 percent of breast cancer patients after sentinel node biopsy and external-beam radiation, increasing to 40 percent following complete axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) and radiation.

Lymphedema can also affect other cancer patients. Surgery and radiation after lymph node removal can cause scarring that blocks the lymph ducts, not only in the underarm but also in the legs, groin, pelvis, or neck after treatment for uterine, prostate, ovarian, or prostate cancer, as well as lymphoma and melanoma.

It can be difficult to treat lymphedema, which often requires lifelong therapy with compression garments to prevent lymphangitis (inflammation) and cellulitis in the affected limb. The condition can greatly affect quality of life for breast cancer patients and, some studies suggest, is associated with a two-to-three-fold increase in mortality in the six years following a cancer diagnosis.

The current study of the lymphatic microsurgical preventive healing approach (LYMPHA) is the first to be conducted outside of the University of Genoa in Italy, where it was developed. Dr. Sheldon M. Feldman, the principal investigator, was invited by the developers, Drs. Francesco Boccardo and Corradino Campisi, to observe their team in 2012.

The LYMPHA technique creates a bypass to restore lymphatic flow by connecting lymph vessels to a branch of the axillary vein, a pathway normally severe
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