Lymph Node Transplant Can Provide Relief from Cancer-Related Lymphedema
New York, NY - A critical aspect of many cancer surgeries is the removal of nearby lymph nodes, which helps eliminate cancer cells that may have spread from the primary tumor. In some cases, however, removing these lymph nodes causes a debilitating side effect called lymphedema.
The lymphatic system is a network of tubes and filters that serves as the body’s waste-disposal system. Removing lymph nodes can create a blockage that prevents fluid waste from draining from the area. This condition involves swelling and stiffness in the arms or legs and causes discomfort, restricts mobility, and can lead to infections requiring hospitalization.
“Patients with lymphedema suffer tremendously — more than people realize,” says Memorial Sloan Kettering reconstructive surgeon Joseph Dayan. “They’ve survived cancer but find themselves stuck with a potentially permanent disability that may get worse over time. Many of these patients can’t wear their usual clothes and even find it difficult to go swimming or be in the sun because a burn can trigger swelling or infection.”
People with lymphedema can gain some relief through physical therapy or by wrapping their limbs in compression garments, but the condition gravely impairs day-to-day well-being and may never go away.
A new approach to treating lymphedema involves transplanting lymph nodes from elsewhere in the body to replace those removed as part of treatment. Although this technique has been investigated for years, there is a known risk of lymphedema developing at the site from which the nodes are taken. Continue>
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