Non-invasive device more effective for early detection of lymphedema after breast cancer

Non-Invasive Device More Effective for Early Detection of Lymphedema after Breast Cancer
Credit: Cleveland Clinic

Some breast cancer survivors may experience lymphedema, a condition that causes painful swelling of their arm or hand after undergoing surgery or radiation.

"Lymphedema can really cause discomfort and can cause loss of function. Women can have trouble lifting their arm or using their hand," said Chirag Shah, MD, director of breast radiation oncology for Cleveland Clinic. "It can lead to secondary infections of the arm called lymphangitis and really have a significant impact, psychosocial impact and quality of life impact."

Previously, women were often diagnosed using a tape measure. However, Dr. Shah's recent research shows a device which uses low-level electrical currents is much more effective.

He said it does a better job with early detection, making the condition easier to treat.

When it comes to treatment, it varies based on the severity. In some cases, a woman may be given a compression garment to wear to help with swelling.

Physical therapy and surgery may also be necessary.

"I think it depends typically on when we catch , so if we catch lymphedema later in the process, it's often felt to be irreversible if there is a significant volume increase and a lot of chronic changes have set in," he said. "But, if it is caught early there is data, including data from the PREVENT trial, showing that are not progressing to chronic lymphedema and they're actually having that resolved."

Chirag Shah, MD, director of breast radiation oncology for Cleveland Clinic disccuses lymphedema and the PREVENT trial. Credit: Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Shah said his take home message for those who underwent treatment for is to be proactive about their risk for lymphedema and to talk to their physician about any concerns.

The research was published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

More information: Pat Whitworth et al, Reducing rates of chronic breast cancer–related lymphedema with screening and early intervention: an update of recent data, Journal of Cancer Survivorship (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s11764-022-01242-8

Journal information: Journal of Cancer Survivorship
Provided by Cleveland Clinic
Citation: Non-invasive device more effective for early detection of lymphedema after breast cancer (2022, October 5) retrieved 22 May 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-non-invasive-device-effective-early-lymphedema.html
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