New imaging technique may reduce lymphedema in breast cancer patients

Washington, Dec 13 (ANI): Scientists have used a new imaging technique that may help in reducing lymphedema in breast cancer patients by 55 percent.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reported that integrating single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with the computerized tomography (CT) scans utilized for breast cancer radiotherapy planning may offer patients substantial protection against lymphedema, an incurable, chronic swelling of tissue that results from damage to lymph nodes sustained during breast cancer radiation.

The SPECT-CT scan pinpoints the precise locations of the lymph nodes that are critical for removing fluid from the arm, allowing physicians to block them, as much as possible, from X-ray beams delivered to the chest.

"In an effort to deliver therapeutic doses of radiation to the breast, lymph nodes under the arm are innocent bystanders that often are irrevocably harmed. Minimizing harm to these nodes during breast cancer treatment is the most effective way we have seen to reduce women's risk of developing lymphedema," said study's lead investigator, Andrea Cheville.

The technique the researchers developed to shield lymph nodes from radiation involved merging SPECT scans with the CT images utilized in radiation treatment planning.

Using the SPECT-CT images, the researchers identified all of the critical lymph nodes in the patients. They found that 65 percent of these nodes would have been located within the standard radiation treatment fields if they were not blocked.

They also found that among the 25 patients with at least one critical lymph node within the radiation treatment field, at least some blocking was possible for all of them.

Researchers calculated that the number of lymph nodes receiving a moderate dose of radiation was reduced from 26 percent to four percent with blocking.

The findings were presented at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. (ANI)

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