You CAN Prevent Cancer-Related Lymphedema

Learn about the condition, treatment options, and what you can do to prevent cancer-related lymphedema in the arms or legs

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What Is Lymphedema?

Cancer-related lymphedema is a condition that can result from surgical, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments for some cancers including:

  • Breast cancer

  • Melanoma

  • Pelvic area cancers

These treatments can damage and block the lymphatic system, which is a large network of vessels that remove waste from the body. When the lymphatics system is damaged, fluid build-up occurs, causing painful swelling, most often in the arms or legs.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Swelling in an arm or leg on the same side as the cancer treatment is a universal symptom of lymphedema. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in your arm, hands, fingers, legs or feet

  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness

  • Your arm, hand, leg, or foot is hard to move

  • Clothes, rings, watches, or shoes feel tight

These symptoms may happen within a few days of surgery or treatment, but it can also happen months or even years afterward. If untreated, it can lead to serious infection, hospitalization, and become a lifelong condition.

Stage 0 Subclinical

Lymphatic system is blocked, setting the stage for fluid build-up

 

Stage 0 arm
Stage 0 leg

Stage 1
Pitting Edema

Fluid build-up causes swelling; some pitting may appear on the skin

Stage 1 arm
Stage 2 leg

Stage 2
Irreversible

The affected limb becomes hard and increases in size

 

Stage 2 arm
Stage 1 leg

Stage 3
Elephantiasis

The affected limp becomes very large and misshapen and the skin looks like leather

Stage 3 arm
Stage 3 leg

Is Lymphedema Curable?

Currently, no cure for Lymphedema exists. By the time you experience swelling, the condition is typically irreversible. However, if the condition is detected early, prior to symptoms, then lymphedema can be prevented.

How to Prevent Cancer-Related Lymphedema (Before It's Incurable)

New technologies, like Bioimpedance Spectroscopy (L-Dex®), combined with early intervention protocols, like compression garments, have been shown to bring the incidence of Lymphedema down to under 3% in breast cancer patients.1,2

What is the L-Dex Score?

The L-Dex score is a new technology that helps your healthcare provider know if you are developing lymphedema before you feel signs or symptoms. This early alert allows you to take steps to stop lymphedema from getting worse, or to avoid getting it at all.

For best results, at-risk patients receive a baseline measurement before cancer treatment begins and are then tested regularly after treatment. If your L-Dex score increases above normal levels, your healthcare provider will evaluate you for early signs of lymphedema.

If you don’t get a pre-treatment baseline score, you can still use the L-Dex test to detect lymphedema early. Simply ask your healthcare provider to record a post-treatment baseline score to compare against.

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What is SOZO®?

The SOZO device is used to measure your L-Dex score. It looks like a scale, but it has places for you to put your hands and feet. You will not feel the SOZO test and it only takes 30 seconds to complete.

 

 

How It Works

  1. Remove metal jewelry, watches, and electronic devices.

  2. Take off shoes and socks.

  3. Make sure your hands and feet are clean.

  4. Step on the SOZO device and make sure your feet touch the silver plates

  5. Make sure your hands are flat and touching the silver plates

  6. Do not move while the test is running

Lymphedema Prevention Is As Simple As: Test, Trigger, Treat

The Lymphedema Prevention Program follows three steps to find early signs of lymphedema and to stop it from getting worse.

Test

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After cancer treatment, you'll be tested for lymphedema during follow-up visits using the
L-Dex score on the SOZO device.

Trigger

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If your L-Dex score increases above normal levels, your healthcare provider will evaluate you for early signs of lymphedema.

Treat

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Your healthcare provider will prescribe the treatment that best fits your condition. For early lymphedema, this may include at-home treatment with compression garments.

You Have a Voice In Preventing Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a risk of cancer treatment. The good news is, if you catch it early and treat it, you can prevent it before it becomes irreversible. Don’t wait to get tested. Your cancer care team wants to help you, please use them as a resource if you have any questions or concerns.

  • References

    1. Ridner SH, et al. A Randomized Trial Evaluating Bioimpedance Spectroscopy Versus Tape Measurement for the Prevention of Lymphedema Following Treatment for Breast Cancer: Interim Analysis. Ann Surg Oncol 2019; https://doi.org/10.1245/s10434-019-07344-5.

    2. Whitworth PW and Cooper A. Reducing chronic breast cancer-related lymphedema utilizing a program of prospective surveillance with bioimpedance spectroscopy. Breast J. 2017;1-4.