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Best Life: Device detects early signs of lymphedema

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 7:32 AM CDT
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in five breast cancer patients develops lymphedema, a buildup of fluid in the arms after doctors remove lymph nodes during cancer surgery. If not detected and treated early, lymphedema can become a life-long struggle. There’s a new device that can give a woman and her doctor an early warning.

Over the past two years, Kathy Lahr has been through a challenging health journey, with her husband Bernie by her side. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.

“I never felt a lump. I had no discomfort. It was very small,” Kathy Lahr recalled.

Lahr had a double mastectomy, and later, chemo for ovarian cancer. She stayed positive, and powered through treatment, except once.

“I never cried from first diagnosis till the end of chemo, I didn’t cry. But I came very close the day they told me I had lymphedema,” Lahr shared.

Lymphedema is a painful buildup of fluid in limbs caused by damage to the lymph nodes. Fortunately, Kathy’s doctor caught the condition very early using a new device called the SOZO.

“I guess, a good way to describe it would be like an EKG of your arms, which gives an indirect measurement of how much fluid is in the extremity,” explained John F. Turner, MD, FACS, Breast Surgeon and Clinical Co-Manager of the Thyra M. Humphreys Center for Breast Health at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, PA.

Patients, like Lahr, take off their shoes and socks, step barefoot onto the device, and grab two handles. Patients can’t feel it, but medical therapists will look for a change in what’s called an LDEX score, a measure of fluid under the skin. If the measurement goes up, patients start treatment early, wearing a compression sleeve, like this one. Kathy wore a compression sleeve for a month. That early intervention meant no visible swelling.

“I caught a big break because it cleared it right up, and I am fine,” Kathy shared.

Healthy again and enjoying her time with Bernie.

Turner says research suggests that 97 percent of patients who wear the compression sleeves for a month before the condition is noticeable can avoid chronic lymphedema.

The West Cancer Center in Tennessee also offers the SOZO device to patients. If you are interested in learning more, visit http://www.westcancer.org/.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.