Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, a Mubadala Health partner, has 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 metastasized 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 cancer in the UAE, with 1,030 new cases reported that year.

In partnership with Cleveland Clinic in the U.S., 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 metastasized to her lymph nodes. The surgery, which is 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 supermicrosurgery 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 have a higher risk of developing lymphedema. This type of surgery is part of our wider efforts at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to advance a healthcare model that focuses on patient-centered 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. 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 preexisting comorbidities, 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. For more information on breast cancer screenings or related tests, please visit Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Breast Health Clinic page.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart, Vascular & Thoracic, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

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