Avoiding lymphedema after breast cancer surgery - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Avoiding lymphedema after breast cancer surgery

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Mirtha Richardson is a breast cancer survivor. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation earlier this year.

"The emotional roller coaster was unbelievable. But I did well post-operatively. I did very well," she said.

But in the months, even years after surgery, patients like Richardson still have to worry about developing a condition called lymphedema. Fluid builds up in the arm after lymph nodes are removed, restricting motion and causing painful swelling that can be extreme and very noticeable.

Now, doctors at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York are testing a new device that could pick up early signs of the condition. The L-DEX uses pads like those used with an EKG, then a weak electrical current goes through the arm and measures any increases in fluid.

"The same current you would feel and perceive if you held a double a battery between two fingers, so it's truly minimal and it's imperceptible." said Dr. Lisa Wiechmann of Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care.

If the L-DEX shows there's extra fluid, doctors can begin early treatments, including massage therapy or compression sleeves to keep the condition under control.

Richardson doesn't have any signs of lymphedema so far.

"I just want to be able to catch it on time," she said. "That's my main concern, be able to catch things on time."

As part of the study, she'll be monitored for the next three years.

Currently doctors use a tape measure to see if there are any changes in the arm after surgery.

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