SOZO: Early Detection for Lymphedema


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—One in five breast cancer patients develops lymphedema, a buildup of fluid in the arms after doctors remove lymph nodes during cancer surgery. If not detected and treated early, lymphedema can become a life-long struggle. There’s a new device that can give a woman and her doctor early warning.

Over the past two years, Kathy Lahr has been through a challenging health journey, with her husband Bernie by her side. Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.

“I never felt a lump. I had no discomfort. It was very small,” Kathy Lahr recalled.

Kathy had a double mastectomy, and later, chemo for ovarian cancer. She stayed positive, and powered through treatment, except once …

“I never cried from first diagnosis till the end of chemo, I didn’t cry. But I came very close the day they told me I had lymphedema,” Kathy shared.

Lymphedema is a painful buildup of fluid in limbs caused by damage to the lymph nodes. Fortunately, Kathy’s doctor caught the condition very early using a new device called the SOZO.

“I guess, a good way to describe it would be like an EKG of your arms, which gives an indirect measurement of how much fluid is in the extremity,” explained John F. Turner, MD, FACS, Breast Surgeon and Clinical Co-Manager of the Thyra M. Humphreys Center for Breast Health at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, PA.

(Read Full Interview)

Patients, like Kathy, take off their shoes and socks, step barefoot onto the device, and grab two handles. Patients can’t feel it, but medical therapists will look for a change in what’s called an LDEX score, a measure of fluid under the skin. If the measurement goes up, patients start treatment early, wearing a compression sleeve, like this one. Kathy wore a compression sleeve for a month. That early intervention meant no visible swelling.

“I caught a big break because it cleared it right up, and I am fine,” Kathy shared.

Healthy again and enjoying her time with Bernie.

Dr. Turner says research suggests that 97 percent of patients who wear the compression sleeves for a month before the condition is noticeable can avoid chronic lymphedema.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

To receive a free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe, sign up at:






REPORT:       MB #4905

LYMPHEDEMA BACKGROUND: Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms or both legs can swell. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to a person’s lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. It results from a blockage in the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling. While there is presently no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of the affected limb.


DIAGNOSING LYMPHEDEMA: Symptoms of lymphedema may develop slowly over time or they may have a sudden onset. If you are at risk for lymphedema or have had a history of lymphedema and experience an injury or infection, this could occur suddenly.

Signs of lymphedema include swelling in arms or legs, uncomfortable heaviness or fullness, tightness of skin when wearing clothes and jewelry, burning or itching sensation, and noticeable thickening of the skin. Early signs of lymphedema include but are not limited to: difficulty seeing or feeling veins and tendons in your hands and feet, having skin redness, having your arm or leg appear to be of slightly different sizes, feeling joints tighten, and experiencing puffiness of the skin. If you are experiencing these symptoms, especially after having a cancer treatment, call your healthcare provider as early treatment is important to keep swelling under control.


NEW TREATMENTS: Until recently, there have been few treatment options beyond compression and manual lymph drainage (MLD) guided by certified lymphedema therapists. Early promise of antagonizing the inflammatory cascade of lymphedema with leukotriene B4 with bestatin did not demonstrate significant clinical reductions in symptoms. A small trial demonstrated reduced skin thickness in patients who received ketoprofen, but its use is limited by a black box warning of increased cardiovascular events with long-term use. Although there are no randomized clinical trials, small observational studies have shown MLD to be beneficial at reducing lymphedema-associated swelling, particularly in combination with compression therapy. Direct excisional procedures have largely been replaced with power-assisted liposuction. In a prospective study in 116 women with breast cancer-related lymphedema who underwent liposuction, 15-year follow-up showed promising results with all women having complete resolution of their lymphedema without recurrence.






If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for John F. Turner, MD, FACS, Breast Surgeon

Read the entire Q&A