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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© 9 comments
this $12,000 giveaway is in memory of crickett julius + rachel troxell
crickett julius, survived breast cancer only 4 months from HER2+ diagnosis in 2006, but her mother + cousin are dedicated to helping other women enjoy life post-diagnosis. Crickett’s Answer, is their nonprofit that provides wigs, mastectomy + lymphedema products, massage, facials + other pampering services to help women heal after losing their breasts + hair.
rachel troxell was cofounder of LympheDIVAs with her friend robin miller, also a breast cancer survivor. they saw a need to create attractive, fun + comfortable compression garments for life with lymphedema. rachel passed away in 2008.
Crickett’s Answer + LympheDIVAs want to help breast cancer survivors with lymphedema who can't afford $2-$500 for compression sleeves + gauntlets (gloves). lymphedema sufferers (like me) must wear these every day to control swelling. although lymphedema sleeves are medically necessary, they are not covered by most insurance, including medicare, under current law*, so thousands of survivors go without sleeves, needlessly suffering painful swelling that interferes with their normal activities + leaves them vulnerable to infection. left uncompressed, lymphedema increases steadily, becomes debilitating, + is irreversible.
to apply for 2 sets of lympheDIVAs compression sleeves + gauntlets (gloves), please download forms at Crickett’s Answer for Cancer + write in “lymphedema sleeve + gauntlet” on page 2. include measurements.
*the lymphedema treatment act will be reintroduced in 2011 Congress,
to help change the law, so insurance covers lymphedema garments.
thank you susan of mothers with cancer for sharing this with us :)
by ~mod*mom~ at 5.1.11 Â© 8 comments