Breast Cancer & Cosmetic Surgery | D B Ghosh

Understanding Lymphedema: What You Need to Know

Lymphedema is a condition characterised by long-term swelling, often in the arm, but can also occur in other body parts. It affects around 20-25% of breast cancer patients who undergo axillary clearance as part of their treatment. As advancements in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment lead to longer survival rates, the impact of lymphedema on patients’ lives is becoming increasingly apparent.

Lymphedema can result in functional limitations in the affected limb, increase the risk of limb cellulitis, and impose psychological burdens. Traditional treatment methods, such as lymphatic massage by a trained physiotherapist, offer relief but can pose a burden over time due to its incurable nature.

Introducing LYMPHA: A preventative approach

LYMPHA (Lymphatic Microsurgical Preventative Healing Approach), also known as Lymphovenous Anastomosis, is a groundbreaking procedure for breast cancer patients designed to reduce the risk of lymphedema. By preserving the upper limb lymph nodes during axillary dissection surgery, LYMPHA aims to prevent lymphedema from developing.

Research suggests that LYMPHA can decrease the incidence of lymphedema from 20%-25% to 4%-8%, offering hope for patients at risk. During the procedure, the Mr Ghosh identifies and preserves the upper limb lymphatics, connecting them to the axillary vein to ensure continuous lymphatic drainage.

What to expect during the procedure

During axillary dissection surgery, Mr Ghosh meticulously joins the delicate lymphatic vessels to the vein through precise microsurgical techniques. This creates a new pathway for lymphatic drainage, effectively reducing the risk of lymphedema. While the procedure may add up to 60 minutes to your surgery time, the potential benefits are significant.

Understanding the risks

Like any medical procedure, LYMPHA carries potential risks and complications, including allergic reactions to the blue dye used to identify lymph nodes, deep vein thrombosis, infection, bleeding, and nerve injury. Your surgeon will discuss these risks with you and address any concerns you may have.

Post-op care tips

While LYMPHA can significantly reduce the risk of lymphedema, it does not entirely eliminate it. To protect the affected limb after surgery, consider the following precautions:

  • Avoid injections, blood pressure measurements, or blood draws from the affected limb.
  • Refrain from wearing tight clothing or jewellery on the affected limb.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or exposing the limb to extreme temperatures.
  • Keep the skin moisturised, and avoid shaving with a razor or hot wax.
  • When exposed to the sun, wear protective clothing and sunscreen.
  • Be vigilant for signs of infection or swelling, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes.

As pioneers in the country, Mr Ghosh, has been offering LYMPHA for the past three years at The London Clinic. Being amongst the few centres in the UK providing this cutting-edge procedure, we are committed to delivering advanced care to our patients.