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Lymph Node Transfer

ProceduresLymph Node Transfer

Introduction to Autologous Lymph Node Transfer

Over 2.5 million women with a history of breast cancer are alive in the United States today. One study reports a 7% incidence after sentinel lymph node biopsy, but it is limited by a short-term follow-up of 6 months. A larger long-term study reveals that 42% of all breast cancer survivors develop clinically detectable upper extremity lymphedema (UEL) within 5 years of treatment, and another study of premenopausal breast cancer survivors has shown that 54% had arm or hand swelling within the first 36 months of treatment. In fact, a 20-year longitudinal study has demonstrated that 77% of those who develop UEL report an onset within 3 years, with the remaining patients developing UEL at a rate of 1% a year. UEL is a pervasive problem among breast cancer survivors. All breast cancer patients are at lifetime risk, and there is no accepted cure.

Effect Of UEL On Quality Of Life (QOL)

As advances in breast cancer treatment lengthen survival, UEL has emerged as a high-impact problem profoundly impairing QOL in breast cancer survivors. The Iowa Woman’s Health Study (IWHS) collected data on 1,287 breast cancer patients and found that 30% had arm swelling, 18% had impaired arm function, and 21% had arm pain or discomfort. Despite this, 92% of patients had not been diagnosed or treated. Evidence of UEL was often neglected by clinicians, leaving the problem to be underestimated and underappreciated.

Practical consequences of UEL include severe restrictions in lifestyle and activities of daily living. Women suffering from UEL may not be able to use a zipper or button to dress, write or type, and may be forced to give up hobbies, driving, and paid employment. Patients may not be able to lift the affected arm to carry a shopping bag. Women have difficulty finding clothing that fits or feels self-conscious wearing a bathing suit or short sleeves – particularly when they have to appear in public wearing a compression garment around the affected limb, a standard part of lifetime maintenance treatment. Sufferers report social stigma and shun group interactions to avoid stares from friends, family, and strangers. Sexual relationships suffer. Women are constantly reminded of their disease, even after treatment for primary breast cancer has ended because treatment for UEL generally does not end. Although they are breast cancer survivors, many women report UEL management to be more distressing than coping with breast cancer itself as it forces permanent disruptions to personal, work, and social lifestyles.

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that results in skin changes, fibrosis with thickened but fragile tissue, loss of normal sensation, impaired function, pain, discomfort, and a sense of heaviness in the affected limb. Once UEL is established, tissue changes and lymphostasis bring about susceptibility to inflammation that can make the affected arm vulnerable to cellulitis from minor infections that would otherwise be insignificant in the normal arm. 

Frequent infections due to UEL are known as acute inflammatory episodes (AIE), and often require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics. Each episode may further damage lymphatic channels and perpetuate a vicious cycle. Scrupulous personal hygiene is necessary to prevent a recurrence, but patients with repeated AIE may need lifelong antibiotic prophylaxis. Regular disruptions for AIE management lead patients to feel anger, frustration, and loss of control.

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Why Choose Dr. Chen for Lymph Node Transfer

Dr. Constance Chen is a board-certified plastic surgeon with special expertise in using innovative, natural techniques to optimize medical and cosmetic outcomes after plastic and reconstructive for women. She understands that every woman has her unique concerns and treatment preferences, and focuses on giving each of her patients the specialized attention they deserve. Dr. Chen is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and prioritizes patient safety and shared medical decision-making.

How Much Does Lymph Node Transfer Cost in NYC?

Lymph Node Transfer in NYC is often covered by insurance, but an individual’s insurance benefits will vary depending on the carrier. A personal consultation is necessary to determine a surgical plan. Once a surgical plan has been developed, Dr. Chen’s staff can give you a cost estimate and answer any financial questions you may have.

Schedule Your Consultation

If you’re interested in Autologous Lymph Node Transfer in NYC, contact our office and schedule your one-on-one consultation with Dr. Chen. We look forward to discussing your goals and helping you become comfortable and confident.

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Many of our patients have volunteered to speak with other women who may have questions about what it is like to go through restorative breast and body surgery. If you would like to speak with someone who has already gone through the process, please contact us and we will find a “buddy” for you.


The Bosom Buddies are available for emotional support, practical tips, sharing stories, and other types of real life help that can help other women feel more comfortable and safe in their journey.

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As one of the leading breast reconstruction specialists in the United States, Dr. Constance Chen has been featured in over 100 news and media publications and journals over her years in practice.

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