Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich fluid which can occur as a result of damage to the lymph transport system during surgery or radiation treatment. The condition affects between 5% and 60% of breast cancer patients, with symptoms beginning as a feeling of heaviness or fullness in the arm. Unfortunately, once the symptoms are apparent, lymphedema may have already become a long-term condition for patients who have already been through so much.
Yet, the incidence and severity of lymphedema may now be reduced or eliminated for many women receiving treatment at BMC’s Cancer Center. In May, the center launched an early detection and intervention program to decrease the risk of breast cancer related lymphedema in the first three years after surgery that is now part of the patient’s standard of care. At the heart of the program is leading edge bioimpedence spectroscopy that measures the presence of excess fluid before the patient notices any symptoms. When found in its earliest stages, lymphedema is far more likely to respond successfully to therapy.
A quick and painless intervention A baseline measurement called L-Dex (for lymphedema index) is taken by simply placing an electrode on the patient’s wrist or right ankle to measure the amount of fluid in a patient’s arm before her cancer surgery. The painless, non-invasive process takes four to six minutes.
Following surgery, L-Dex measurements are taken every three months for one to three years. Individuals who are diagnosed with subclinical lymphedema are enrolled in a lymphedema prevention program and monitored according to National Lymphedema Network guidelines. Full treatment is initiated if needed for clinical lymphedema, and patients are closely followed to manage the condition.
Please call 413-443-6000 for more information or to make an appointment.