Nov 10, 2007

I found another interesting article about a device to test for lymphedema before it becomes severe, and is associated mostly with post-breast cancer surgery. It seems like a very interesting device, and hopefully does help some people.

New Devices May Improve Life After Breast Cancer

Many women survive breast cancer only to face another challenge: terrible swelling in an arm that doesn't go away. It's called lymphedema. Two new devices are helping by diagnosing early and treating it.

Deborah Murphy is battling a recurrence of breast cancer, but that's only one of her battles.

"It's very hard," Murphy said. "You have to take one day at a time and just focus on one thing at a time."

The Grandview woman also has a very swollen, heavy left arm. It's lymphedema, and it can result from cancer surgery or radiation treatment. The arm's lymphatic or drainage system is damaged and fluid builds up. There's no cure although layer upon layer of wrapping helps control it.

Now there's a device that may help save other breast cancer patients from severe lymphedema.

"I'd like to catch it early so if there's a small change, we'll be able to know before it gets out of control," Anise Sewell, a breast cancer patient, said.

The device is an impedance analyzer.

"It's an electrical current that travels up through the body and measures the resistance of the flow of the fluid in the limb," Cheryl Morgan with Integrative Therapy Concepts said.

Morgan said by checking patients before they have cancer treatment and periodically as they're treated, lymphedema can be caught before there are visible signs. And if trouble is caught early, all the patient needs to do is wear a compression garment to prevent swelling.

It's too late for the analyzer to benefit Murphy, but another device may. It's a cold laser. In one small study, a third of those who had the laser treatments saw a significant reduction in swelling.

Breast cancer patients typically are told to measure their arms regularly to check for signs of swelling. The impedance device may be more effective in detecting lymphedema early.

For more on lymphedema, go to The American Society of Lymphology will hold its annual meeting in Kansas City November 26-28. It's for professionals and patients.

Meryl Lin McKean, FOX 4 News

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