Simple Procedure to Prevent Lymphedema
A Local Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story
Gohar Sargsian never thought she would battle breast cancer alongside her best friend Diana.
“It’s even more unbelievable that we were both diagnosed together,” says Gohar.
Gohar’s cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She met with Eli Avisar, M.D., a surgical oncologist at Sylvester, who says removal of the lymph nodes in the armpit during breast cancer surgery can lead to a serious complication called lymphedema.
“Removal of lymph nodes which are affected with cancer, could generate as a secondary effect, a damage in the drainage of the fluids from the arm and cause swelling of the arm,” Dr. Avisar says. “Patients will see or feel some swelling in their soft tissues. They may wake up in the morning and feel that their arm is more swollen, or the hand is more swollen.”
When it comes to breast cancer surgery, most patients don’t think about the complications from lymphedema.
“Lymphedema is a problem, and it can be disabling. At the time of surgery, it can be prevented. We encourage them to exercise,” says Dr. Avisar.
He pioneered a technique called S-LYMPHA to reconnect the lymphatic system during surgery.
“Rather than being a complicated operation, adding an hour and a half of surgery, within another 10,15 minutes, it’s done,” Dr. Avisar says.
“My arm is like normal arm. I don’t feel anything,” says Gohar.
“Even though she had bilateral breast cancer, she is functioning perfectly,” says Dr. Avisar.
Sylvester’s Comprehensive Lymphedema Program is recognized as a Center of Excellence.
“With the lymphedema therapy, with the prevention that I do, with the correction that the plastic surgeons do, that gives us a whole umbrella of comprehensive lymphedema care,” Dr. Avisar says.
Five years later, these best friends are still cancer-free and lymphedema free: thankful for each other and the entire Sylvester team.
“They care about you. You are not alone,” Gohar says.
Eli Avisar, M.D., is a surgical oncologist specializing in lymphedema at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. Learn more about this innovative lymphedema procedure.
Video transcript compiled by Janna Ross for ‘Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine,’ a series of health care-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10. For more stories like this one, visit UHealth’s YouTube channel.