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Cervical Cancer, Lymphedema and SOZO What You Should Know

Kamerin Hargrove
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally with an estimated 604,000 new cases in 2020, as reported by the World Health Organization. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control reports 11,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. The good news is, with advances in medical research and treatments, more women are surviving cervical cancer. Unfortunately, cancer can lead to other risks.  

Surgery and treatments for cervical cancer can result in removal or damage to certain lymphatic structures, which can increase the risk of developing lymphedema. Lymphedema is protein-rich fluid that should normally be drained by the lymphatic system and refers to abnormal swelling that most often affects the arms and/or legs. When the lymphatic system is damaged, it is unable to drain properly and will continue to worsen over time. If lymphedema is not treated in its early stages, it may progress and impact function or cause other health concerns. Signs of lymphedema can include swelling in the arms, hands, legs or feet; a feeling of heaviness, tightness or inability to move; and/or an abnormal tightness of clothes, jewelry or shoes. 

Shaw Cancer Center partners with Howard Heads Sports Medicine to offer SOZO, a medical device used to diagnose and manage lymphedema. SOZO calculates an L-Dex (lymphedema index) score, which helps the cancer care team monitor for lymphedema and can potentially diagnosis it even before patients show any of the signs and symptoms. 

When it comes to treatment of lymphedema, the sooner the patient is diagnosed and begins treatment, the more likely it can be prevented from getting worse. Treatment can also potentially reverse lymphedema. Insurance carriers have different coverage allowances, and a SOZO test may be covered. Patients are encouraged to contact their insurance prior to their visit to determine coverage and potential out-of-pocket expenses. 

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cervical or other types of cancer, contact Shaw Cancer Center for treatment options or Howard Head Sports Medicine to learn more about SOZO and how it may help manage lymphedema.