Abu Dhabi clinic introduces preventive surgery for breast cancer patients

It could completely eliminate the need for further procedures


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Photo: Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi
Photo: Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi

Published: Wed 31 Aug 2022, 5:28 PM

Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi, recently introduced bypass lymphedema surgery for breast cancer patients in the UAE, after findings show that one in five breast cancer patients is at risk of developing lymphedema.

Lymphedema is often triggered by cancer, axillary lymph node dissection surgery for cancer, or radiation treatment. It is a debilitating condition that manifests as acute swelling of the upper arm after metastasised lymph nodes are removed. The condition brings an increased possibility of infection, along with social, mental and physical implications for those already undergoing cancer treatment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, making it the most prevalent form of cancer worldwide. The WHO’s Global Cancer Observatory also cited that in 2020, breast cancer was the most common form of cancer in the UAE, with 1,030 new cases reported that year.

In partnership with Cleveland Clinic in the US, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has introduced this preventive surgery to the UAE, having recently conducted the procedure on a local patient whose breast cancer had metastasised to her lymph nodes. The surgery, normally conducted in tandem with other primary cancer surgeries, such as a mastectomy, serves as a preventive measure for lymphedema, and may negate the need for further surgery.

Dr Raffi Gurunian, Department Chair and Chief of Plastic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: “Performing this lymphedema preventive super-microsurgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi will lay the foundation for greater access to this treatment, and a better chance of a positive outcome, especially for post-operative breast cancer patients who are at a higher risk of developing lymphedema.

Photo: Dr Raffi Gurunian
Photo: Dr Raffi Gurunian

This type of surgery is part of our wider efforts at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to advance a healthcare model that focuses on patient-centred and preventive care. This approach aligns closely with the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi’s, increased focus and investment in preventive and precision medicine."

“Lymphedema is a physically and emotionally draining condition that often creates social isolation, along with mobility issues", he added. "While this bypass surgery may alleviate the condition, people need to also take care of their lifestyle choices to avoid developing further health-related complications. Obesity, and other pre-existing co-morbidities, increase the possibility of developing lymphedema after breast cancer surgery.

Being able to manage both the physiological and psychological effects of cancer and treatments are key to the patient’s success. Given the prevalence of breast cancer in the UAE, we anticipate performing more of these preventive operations on breast cancer patients to avoid developing lymphedema, and help alleviate this stigma-inducing condition.”

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Breast Health Clinic’s multidisciplinary cancer program continues to raise awareness around breast health, and breast cancer prevention, alongside the importance of regular screenings.


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