Breast Cancer and Edema: New Tools to Measure It

breast cancer ribbon balloons

A team of researchers led by Mei R. Fu, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, associate professor of Chronic Disease Management at the New York University College of Nursing (NYUCN), offers supporting evidence for using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) ratios to assess Lymphedema. The study, “L-DEX Ratio in Detecting Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: Reliability, Sensitivity, and Specificity,” published in Lymphology, argues because the low frequency electronic current cannot travel through cell membranes, it provides a direct measure of lymph fluid outside the cells. This allows for a more accurate assessment of lymphedema using a Lymphedema Index named L-Dex ratio.

“To lessen breast cancer survivors’ worry about lymphedema development, the BIA may have a role in clinical practice by adding confidence in the detection of arm lymphedema among breast cancer survivors,” says Dr. Fu, “even when pre-surgical BIA baseline measures are not available.”

The objective of the study was to examine the reliability, sensitivity, and specificity of cross-sectional assessment of BIA in detecting lymphedema in a large metropolitan clinical setting.

Measuring lymphedema is challenging because most methods cannot distinguish bone and soft tissues from extracellular fluid. BIA is time-efficient, easy to operate and easy to interpret, making it ideal for clinical practice. Dr. Fu’s research collected data from 250 women, including healthy female adults, breast cancer survivors with lymphedema, and those at risk for lymphedema, demonstrating that survivors with lymphedema had significantly higher L-Dex ratios, which shows the possibility of using BIA to discriminate between those cohorts of women.

“Our study also demonstrated that using a more sensitive L-Dex cutoff point, this allowed for BIA to catch 34% of the usually missed lymphedema cases,” said Dr. Fu. “This allows for earlier treatment, which naturally leads to better outcomes for at-risk patients.”

While not ready for practical use, this technique offers a new (and potentially better) approach to assessing patients for arm swelling related to breast cancer management. Fortunately, we are seeing the risk of serious lymphedema diminish with more innovative management approaches such as the sentinel lymph node biopsy. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: New York University (2013, November 12). New solution in detecting breast-cancer related lymphedema. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/11/131112162804.htm

2 thoughts on “Breast Cancer and Edema: New Tools to Measure It”

  1. Not sure when this article was originally written but L-Dex machines are used on a regular basis In Lymphoedema clinics that can afford to buy the machine … I very quick and easy way to measure the level of fluid and a good way to measure progress during treatment…

  2. Attractive sectioո of content. I ʝust stumbled սpon ʏοur
    web site and in accession capital tօ assert thhat ӏ gett in fct enjoyed account yoսr
    blog posts. Αny way I will be subscribing to yoսr augment ɑnd even I achievement ƴou access consistntly fast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s