When Dr. George Webber goes into the operating room to remove a patient's breast because of cancer, he has one mission.
"We've done the operation to try to save their life," said Webber.
But a complication can come with that often life-saving surgery. It's called lymphedema. It's significant swelling of the arm caused when the lymph nodes and its drainage system in the breast and arm pit are removed or damaged during breast cancer surgery. There is no cure. Patients can only manage the symptoms.
Dr. Webber is one of a handful of surgeons in the nation who is using a procedure that pinpoints the lymphatic system in the arm pit area. It's called Axillary Reserve Mapping. Blue dye is injected in the arm before surgery. It highlights the lymph nodes and its drainage system.
"When we are operating up in the arm pit and taking out lymph nodes from the breast, when we come to the blue dye it is time to back off," said Webber. "We are trying to see what lymph nodes we can avoid and still get all the ones we need to get and thereby reduce the instance of lymphedema."
Dr. Webber says the Axillary Reverse Mapping procedure shows plenty of promise for patients. He reports 72 percent fewer cases of lymphedema in those people.
It's one more tool Dr. Webber says is helping to make lives better after breast cancer.