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yesterday, i celebrated my 5-year re-birthday from terminal breast cancer diagnosis + living with the side effects of breast cancer surgery, radiation + drug therapies, by meeting with top lymphedema research pioneer stanley rockson md, to learn the future of lymphatic disease treatments. the lymphatic system is our 2nd largest circulatory system + connects with our blood vascular system; it produces our immune system cells, filters our blood, + if it isn't working properly, spreads cancer.
doctor rockson is a professor at stanford university school of medicine + practicing cardiologist at stanford medical center. he told me he has a text book publishing later this year for use in educating doctors on lymphatic disease, + he hopes we will be able to develop molecular therapies, + enable "survivor's bodies to grow new lymph nodes" (lymph node replacement surgery is more damaging, than beneficial). doctor rockson also lead an animal model study that reversed lymphedema.
millions of cancer survivors, like me, emerge from surgery, to a lifetime of swelling + discomfort, caused by an incurable buildup of waste fluid in their tissues. doctor rockson's team at the stanford university school of medicine created an animal model for this complex condition called lymphedema, toward understanding its behavior. their results, published in Public Library of Science-Medicine, indicate lymphedema is characterized not just by the presence of swelling, but by a profound, accompanying inflammation. this finding suggests molecular therapies could one day be used to treat lymphatic disease.
"10,000,000 people in the United States have lymphedema. it's heartbreaking that it goes unacknowledged or unrecognized, because doctors have no treatment to offer," said doctor rockson. "15-30% of breast cancer survivors develop lymphedema from surgery-induced damage to the lymphatic system."
the lymphatic system consists of the lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, thymus, bone marrow, appendix, peyer's patches, lymph vessels, + lymph fluid. a network of lymph nodes "draw" the lymph in a 1-way pathway of "channels" throughout the bodies tissues + cells, to the spleen. the tonsils + lymph nodes produce + store lymphocytes to fight infection. the thymus makes "T" cells, by adding an androgen marker to lymphocytes. the lymph nodes also filter lymph, which is protein, sugar + fat rich fluid waste products from the body's continual cell replacement. the spleen destroys pathogens + old red blood cells (rbc have a 120 day lifespan). protein goes back to the blood, fat is absorbed in the lower intestine by peyer's patches (masses of lymphocytes) + uptaken by the thoracic duct to the junction of internal jugular + left subclavian veins in the neck, to be distributed back into blood venus pathways. when lymph node removal surgery disrupts this circulatory system, lymph fluid collects in the interstitial (between cell) tissue of the affected limb + torso. this stagnant liquid bloats the tissue + impairs limb mobility, creating a cesspool for infection.
treatments for lymphedema involve bandaging the affected area or wearing tight-fitting garments to compress the swelling. elevation, exercises, + daily lymphatic drainage massage treatments can also help re-direct lymphatic flow. but such measures are temporary + provide little relief. "it's like the iron lung for polio--it works, but it's certainly no way to live," rockson said.
in this study, doctor rockson + his co-authors generated a mouse model to simulate human-acquired lymphedema. the model was tested using microscopic imaging + molecular-level techniques to find a molecular fingerprint or signature of the disease. "mouse tails were used for the model because of their rich lymphatic network--a simple substitute for the arm," rockson said.
researchers were able to trace lymphatic cell flow by injecting luciferase, the enzyme that gives fireflies their glow, into the mouse tails. using a dynamic imaging technique, the scientists observed cell traffic slowing to a crawl in mice with lymphedema. at the molecular level, the researchers used a microarray chip to determine which of the mouse genes were active. "much to our delight, only 600-700 of the genes had changed," rockson said, corresponding to about 1% of the 55,000 genes in a mouse. "this will allow us to determine whether we can treat lymphedema with a drug or compound that will revert the patient to normal behavior."
please see the information + join the community dedicated to curing lymphatic diseases at lymphatic research foundation - guided by doctor rockson.
(btw he refuted my theory that chemobrain may be caused by lymphedema :)
by ~mod*mom~ at 8.1.11 Â©
A "happy birthday" cheer isn't inappropriate is it, mom*? Happy birthday and Happy New Year!
thank you P.E. :)
Thank you mod*mom! I always wondered what my spleen and tonsils did. Now what's the purpose of the appendix?
Happy 5 year Birthday, Kristen! You are such a wonderful inspiration to all of us. I love your blog. May you have 100 more great years to make up for what you've been through and may they be years with lymphedema under control. All my love to you. - Alix
Very nice article, thanks for the information.
Lymphedema refers to the swelling of any part of the body specifically the upper and lower extremities.Though lymphedema tends to affect only one arm or leg,or sometimes both arms or both legs may be swollen. Through this research, it will be able to help a lot of people who are suffering from lymphedema.Hopefully this research will prosper and could finally find the cure from lymphedema. If you happen to have any fertility concerns, I found this site thant may help you.http://www.natural-fertility-prescription.com/
I was wondering if any one had any more information regarding the lymphedema Internet project being done by the University of Missouri?