There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
1 in 5 of those will be diagnosed with Lymphedema. It’s a painful swelling usually in one or both arms.
Veda Jackson picked up crocheting about a year ago.
“I started crocheting cause I needed to do something with my hands because I was anxious all the time,” said Veda Jackson, Breast Cancer Survivor
She got needles and yarn and got hooked! It took her mind off her diagnosis.
“I was diagnosed with stage three metastasis, breast cancer because it had spread to my lymph nodes,” said Jackson.
Christopher Reid, MD, Plastic surgeon, UC San Diego Health said, “The lymphatic fluid that is all part of our body. It can no longer drain the arm. And as a result, it resides in the arm and causes a lot of swelling.”
This is what Lymphedema looks like. The gold standard for preventing it wearing a compression sleeve to stop swelling.
Now, at the time of the mastectomy, surgeons are using immediate lymphatic reconstruction to prevent it from happening at all.
University of California San Diego Surgeon Christopher Reid said, “Re-plumbs” the drainage routes of the nodes. Using a microscope, reid reconnects any disrupted channels. Many are smaller than the size of a single strand of hair. Other than adding time in the operating room reid says there is no additional risk to the patient.
“If I had a family member, a mother, a sister, a friend who was undergoing breast cancer therapy, I would 100 percent offer this to them. Because if we can eliminate lymphedema altogether, why not try this?” said Doctor Reid.
Veda had a total of 16 chemo treatments and was on 13 medications. The treatments worked no Lymphedema.
“I feel great. Oh no, I feel great. Blessed, wonderful. All of those things,” said Jackson.
Today she’s spending less time at work, thankful she has this time with family.
Breast cancer patients who are getting radiation or are obese have a greater risk of developing Lymphedema.
This technique may also be used to prevent leg lymphedema caused by lymph node removal in the groin area.