Lymphedema news

Research Roundup: New insights into surgical treatments, lipedema, and tropical lymphedema

A summary of lymphedema and lymphatic research news from March 2019.

There’s always something going on in the world of lymphedema and lymphatic research! It can be a lot to keep up with, so here’s a digest of some of the latest headlines from the past month carefully curated to keep you in the lymphie loop.

“Breast Cancer Patients Weigh In On Addressing Financial Burdens”

Lymphedema affects nearly 35% of U.S. breast cancer survivors, and results in an estimated $14,877 in out-of-pocket costs in the first two years of a diagnosis for patients who develop lymphedema. Previous research suggests that 10 years post-diagnosis, breast cancer survivors with lymphedema have over double the health care costs as those not affected by lymphedema.

“No one should have to make a choice between their health and their money. Yet breast cancer survivors face incredibly high prices that can lead to severe financial hardships, even bankruptcy,” says Lorraine T. Dean, ScD, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology.


“Extent of sentinel lymph node biopsy influences lymphedema risk”

A higher number of resected lymph nodes increased the likelihood for lymphedema after sentinel lymph node biopsy, according to study results presented at Miami Breast Cancer Conference.

Within their study sample of patients who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy, those who had more than five lymph nodes dissected appeared twice as likely to develop lymphedema as those who had five or fewer nodes dissected.

“In clinical practice, expanding close follow-up and early education for lymphedema is the key to reduce clinical lymphedema in patients with more than five lymph nodes dissected,” Atilla Soran, MD, MPH, FACS, breast surgical oncologist at Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues wrote.


“Glow-in-the-dark zebrafish could be the key to finding how cancer spreads”

Zebrafish are helping The University of Auckland researchers overturn centuries-old theories about the human lymphatic system. Developmental biologist Dr. Jonathan Astin, who led the team, said the findings will change how we look for new therapies for lymphatic-related diseases, including lymphedema.

“If we think lymphatic vessels all come from one place, then one therapy might work for everything,” Astin said.

“But because we’ve shown they’re more complex, and can form in different ways, we may need an array of therapies to control lymphatic development when this process goes awry.”


“Successful treatment of breast cancer-related breast lymphedema by lymphovenous anastomosis in a male patient”

This study reports the first case of breast lymphedema secondary to male breast cancer treated with supermicrosurgical lymphovenous anastomosis (LVA).

Although more reports are needed to confirm its efficacy, supermicrosurgical LVA appears to be a valuable treatment option for breast lymphedema in both women and men.


“Lymphaticovenular anastomosis in the treatment of secondary lymphoedema of the legs after cancer treatment”

Recently published research from the surgeons at the Oxford Lymphoedema Practice finds lymphaticovenular anastomosis is an effective minimally invasive surgical option for patients with early stage lymphedema secondary to cancer treatment.


“Dilated Blood and Lymphatic Microvessels, Angiogenesis, Increased Macrophages, and Adipocyte Hypertrophy in Lipedema Thigh Skin and Fat Tissue”

Research on the pathophysiology of lipedema recently published in the Journal of Obesity proves that not only is lipedema a real condition, but that it is different from obesity.

The Lipedema Foundation calls this “the paper that could change everything” for lipedema patients; it will hopefully lead to further research with bigger studies.


Lymphatic filariasis news

Lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis) is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic infection to the lymphatic system. It is the leading cause of lymphedema worldwide: of the over 120 million people infected, 40 million are incapacitated or disfigured by the disease.

“A possible cure for river blindness and elephantiasis”

An international team of researchers has found what might be a cure for river blindness and elephantiasis.

In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes their search for a drug that could kill the parasitic worms behind the diseases, what they found, and how well it worked when tested with animals.


“Geographical distribution and prevalence of podoconiosis in Rwanda: a cross-sectional country-wide survey”

Lymphedema is widespread across Rwanda, yet previous reports have highlighted the absence of lymphatic filariasis in the East African country; the causes of lymphedema in the country had not been comprehensively studied until now.

A recent study indicates that 80% of tropical lymphedema in Rwanda is in fact due to podoconiosis, a type of tropical lymphedema caused by long-term exposure to volcanic soils. This is the first nationwide, population-based study of podoconiosis in Rwanda: continued research and understanding will be crucial in informing national-level planning, monitoring, and implementation of health services for those affected and at risk.


Compressed news

  • Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand has launched a new service focusing on early intervention for those at risk of lymphedema following breast cancer surgery: “Early intervention and education can equip people to self-manage their symptoms, which is why we’ve stepped in. The right treatment will empower these women for the rest of their lives.” (Scoop Independent News)
  • After Londonderry woman Cheryl Tierney’s two youngest children were born with lymphedema, she was determined to give them the best chance in life: “Lymphoedema is not them, but it is a small part of who they are. We just keep learning to live with and accept it as part of our lives every day.” (Belfast Telegraph)
  • Local advocates say Lymphedema Awareness Day is the perfect opportunity to send a timely message to the New South Wales Government: “Government funding is urgently needed to increase the number of public services for people with lymphoedema so they can access the treatment they need,” the community programs coordinator at Cancer Council’s Upper Hunter office, Glen Parsons, said. (Hunter Valley News)
  • The first few times Sarah DeBord noticed her left ankle swelling, she wasn’t aware that she might have lymphedema, because she didn’t know she was at risk of developing it: “After the reality of my diagnosis set in, I’m not sure what disappointed me more — that I wasn’t told this could happen to me, or that my own oncologist was so ignorant (about) a condition that could affect many of his patients,” DeBord says. (CureToday)
  • People in Ireland affected by lymphedema are calling on the Minster for Health to progress the roll out of planned new treatment services: “Delivering a dedicated model of care will greatly improve outcomes for patients,” says Bernie Traynor, chairperson of Lymphoedema Ireland. “We also estimate that 15,000 hospital bed nights and €13 million in savings can be achieved.” (Irish Health)

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