Most kiwis who have breast surgery will have some lymph nodes removed from the armpit. This is an important part of the surgery – the presence or absence of cancer cells in these nodes indicates whether the cancer has spread. However, it also damages the lymphatic system, so that lymph fluid can’t drain as well as it should. Many kiwis also have radiation to that area, which can further damage the lymphatic system.
As a result, breast surgery patients can end up with a swollen arm or chest on the same side as surgery, caused by a build-up of lymph fluid. If lymphoedema isn’t detected and managed well in the early stages, it can set in for life.
Advances in early detection and treatment mean that more kiwis are living with breast cancer, and are at risk of side-effects like lymphoedema. It’s important that these Kiwis are supported, even after they’ve finished their treatment.
L-Dex machines use bio-impedance to measure the volume of lymph fluid in the affected arm. This way, lymphoedema can be detected before the patient notices any changes. They can also track whether treatments are working. It’s a simple, painless procedure that all patients at risk of lymphoedema could benefit from.
Detecting lymphoedema early allows women to have treatment and physiotherapy to prevent the swelling from getting worse.