LEWISBURG, UNION COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — About one in eight American women develop invasive breast cancer. Besides surgery, treatment involves radiation and chemotherapy. But that treatment can often trigger debilitating swelling called lymphedema.
Next to breast cancer reoccurrence, lymphedema is considered the biggest health threat for patients. But for patients at Evangelical Community Hospital’s Center for Breast Health, a device is helping prevent lymphedema from taking hold and disrupting their quality of life.
69-year-old Kathy Lahr is a breast cancer survivor. She underwent a double mastectomy in July 2019. While the cancer was being kept at bay, a troubling condition was developing. She was unaware that damage to lymph nodes resulting from her post-surgery cancer treatment was causing lymph fluid to build up under her skin.
“I didn’t have any swelling that I noticed. There was no heaviness. There were none of those symptoms that if it’s gone a little far along,” Lahr said.
What detected her lymphedema in an early stage this past February is the SOZO L-Dex device. It can determine a patient’s lymphedema index score. Patients place their hands and feet on an electrical scale of sorts while the technology determines if fluid is accumulating in the arms or legs.
“As fluid content increases in the extremities, resistance to electrical flow decreases,” explained John Turner, MD Breast Cancer Surgeon, at Evangelical Community Hospital.
Think EKG, but for the limbs. Lahr’s L-Dex score shot up about 20 points but because her lymphedema was caught early, she was fitted with an arm compression sleeve for about a month which reduced fluid and brought her score back to normal.
Dr. Turner: “And that’s what the purpose of the L-Dex is, is to allow us to find lymphedema before it has reached a clinically significant stage meaning before you can see it or feel it. You don’t have visible swelling yet.”
Mark Hiller: “Because then it’s too late.”
Dr. Turner: “Then it’s too late. Then you’re going to be in a sleeve for the rest of your life.
“I am just so thankful this thing has probably saved me from having a bad case of lymphedema,” Lahr said.
Breast cancer patients here have their L-Dex scores monitored every three months for the first three years then every six months up to the tenth year. If you’d like to learn more about the SOZO L-Dex technology head to Evangelical Community Hospital Center for Breast Health’s website.