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New imaging technique could help physicians ease the aftermath of breast cancer
Date:8/3/2010

WASHINGTON, August 2 A new study of breast cancer survivors may help physicians ease a common side effect of cancer treatments. The collaborative research by Eva Sevick, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Molecular Imaging at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTHSC), and Caroline Fife, M.D., Director of the Memorial Herman Wound Care Clinic at UTHSC, could bring relief to millions.

Their paper appears in the inaugural issue of Biomedical Optics Express, an online, open-access journal published by the Optical Society (OSA). The papers featured in the journal will encompass theoretical modeling and simulations, technology development, biomedical studies and clinical applications.

A substantial number of breast cancer survivors suffer from lymphedema in the aftermath of their cancer surgeries. In lymphedema, fluids accumulate in the arms, potentially causing disfiguring and debilitating swelling that can impact quality of life.

Treatments vary, but they generally consist of using manual and pneumatic therapies to "push" or stimulate the body to remove excess fluid and reduce tissue swelling. Finding out whether a treatment is working can take months. That's because the current method of assessing progress is to measure the circumference or volume of a limb and check for changes in swelling -- and a size change big enough to be measured takes time.

During this time, the condition might improve or it might worsen.

The UTHSC research team has developed what promises to be a more sensitive and more immediate way to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment. Their new near-infrared fluorescence imaging technique examines the root cause of lymphedema: blockages or damages in the lymphatic system that prevent fluid from circulating through the body and cause it to pool in the limbs.

"The lymphatics are like the sewer system of your body," says Sevick. "If they get all plugged up, then
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Contact: Lyndsay Basista
lbasista@osa.org
202-416-1930
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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