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Episode 51: Lymphedema Treatment and Surgery for Breast Cancer Patients

DiepCJourney Podcast

Release Date: 03/01/2024

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This episode of the DiepCJourney podcast is well-timed to publish on March 1, 2024, the first day of lymphedema awareness month. We hope you will share this in your community for breast cancer patients affected by lymphedema to provide them with the resources needed to treat this condition and let them know there are specialists in surgical treatment options as well.

My guest is one such specialist. Dr. Charles Anton Fries is Chief of Plastic Surgery and faculty surgeon at UT Health San Antonio and works as a microsurgeon with the team at PRMA, Plastic Reconstructive Microsurgical Associates, in San Antonio.

It is important for listeners to understand the function and importance of the lymphatic system. Dr. Fries begins by explaining this and what can happen during breast surgery of any kind. He describes how the pumping mechanism that is the lymphatic system is compromised with patients who present with lymphedema.

Anything that damages or interrupts the lymph circulation can cause lymphedema as in axillary dissection and breast cancer surgery. Radiation adversely affects the muscle of the lymphatic system and can also cause lymphedema.

Dr. Fries tells us some of the symptoms at the beginning are heaviness and swelling from the accumulation of fluid. This is the time to start intervening with treatments to prevent progression. Lymphedema is incurable and progressive. He shares with us that compression, massage, and pumps are affective in managing the progression of lymphedema and the burden of fluid that can accumulate.

He points out the importance of patients taking a holistic approach to the management of lymphedema including maintaining a healthy weight. One such study shows there is a real correlation between obesity and severity of lymphedema.

We continue our discussion with surgical options both in the office and in the surgical theater. Dr. Fries and I touch on issues with insurance coverage, and he proudly shares that one of his own patients was an advocate working for insurance coverage for the treatment of lymphedema.

 

Links we discussed in the podcast:

PRMA lymphedema measurement chart: https://prma-enhance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Lymphedema-Chart.pdf

YouTube video of the Podcast with Dr. Fries: https://youtu.be/PlY5lb14ovY?si=Jyr7v-p2RhYuDpSD

Dr. Fries Social Media Accounts:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/antonfriesplasticsurgery/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AntonFriesMD

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anton-fries-md-phd-a4167318/

Twitter (X): https://twitter.com/AntonFries