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Mouse Model of Painful Lymphedema Should Aid Research

The condition, marked by swollen limbs, affects many breast cancer patients

THURSDAY, July 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Lymphedema, a buildup of fluid in tissues in the upper arm, is one of the most disabling and painful side effects of breast cancer surgery.

Now, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new mouse model that should further research into this condition.

"Ten million people in the United States have lymphedema. It's heartbreaking that the disease goes unacknowledged or unrecognized because doctors simply have no treatment to offer. This study opens the door to the likelihood of effective therapies," study senior author Dr. Stanley Rockson, associate professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Surgery for cancer can disrupt the lymphatic system, which causes protein-rich fluid to accumulate in tissue in the affected area. People with lymphedema suffer swelling, inflammation and impaired limb mobility. Between 15 percent and 30 percent of breast cancer survivors develop the condition.

Current treatments include massage and bandaging the affected area or wearing tight-fitting garments to compress the swelling. However, these are temporary measures that provide little relief.

As reported this week in PLoS Medicine, Rockson's team said they have developed a mouse model that simulates lymphedema in humans and will enable the researchers to test different drug treatments for the condition.

More information

The Society for Vascular Surgery has more about lymphedema.

SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, July 17, 2006
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