por Lynn Shapiro
, Writer | March 23, 2009
Chang notes that while most effective when completed in earlier stages before the affected arm is fibrotic, almost any breast cancer patient suffering from lymphedema stage I, II or III is a candidate. Though breast cancer was the focus of this study, the surgery can also be performed on patients who have lymphedema in the leg resulting from cancers involving pelvic regions.
Cancer treatment is not the only cause of lymphedema. Primary lymphedema can develop from developmental causes at birth, the onset of puberty or in adulthood. Secondary lymphedema can develop as a result of surgery, radiation, infection or trauma. In developing countries, a form of lymphedema caused by a parasite called Filariasis affects as many as 200 million people worldwide. "As we begin to refine our technique and learn more about the efficacy of this surgery, we have the potential to impact a large number of people," Chang said.
Long-term follow-up with patients who have received lymphaticovenular bypass surgery is necessary to determine if the procedure continues to promote drainage after one year. Chang and his team of surgeons believe that the fluid volume will keep decreasing over time and suggest that the surgery could possibly be used as a preventive measure for lymphedema in the future. "Working toward a definitive technique to cure this encumbering side effect of cancer and improve a patient's quality of life as a cancer survivor is a priority for those of us in this field," Chang says.
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