Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women with over 230,000 incidences diagnosed every year. A typical breast cancer surgery might include but is not limited to, biopsies, breast conservation surgery or mastectomies. Moreover, these surgeries usually cause soreness in the shoulder and arms which in turn affect the ability of the patient to perform simple everyday activities.
Lymphedema, another serious side effect of these surgeries, when coupled with radiation therapy, can appear in breast cancer patients during months or even years after the treatment ends. Lymphedema is a condition in which high-protein fluid collects beneath the skin and causes swelling, redness and discomfort. This condition occurs in breast cancer patients when lymph nodes are damaged or removed during the procedures.
Research suggests that early physiotherapy as well as exercises can reduce the risk of lymphedema. Monitoring the progress during these exercises can be a first step in diagnosing lymphedema. Along with better prognosis, the patients can observe the benefits of early diagnosis with insurance coverage, since most insurance companies do not cover treatments associated with advanced stages of lymphedema. The initial stretching workouts, done during recovery, target the range of motion of the shoulder that is affected by the surgery. This range of motion, determined by the severity of the surgery, improves over time. These exercises can then be used to drain the lymph nodes and help retain flexibility in the affected muscles. A monitoring device engineered to provide data about the extent of recovery would be a significant aide to both the patients and healthcare professionals.
The intent of the paper is to introduce a distinctive device that monitors workouts and uses the data as a motivating factor for the patient as well as an early detection system for lymphedema. The device shows the effort that the patient has put for each workout into user friendly real time graphs. Patients and healthcare professionals can then use this data and graphs to identify problem areas in the recovery process. Preliminary tests of this device, which are presented in this paper, showed promising results in accuracy and repeatability as the device calculated and displayed graphs which were a quantified estimation of the range of motion and workout effort of the user.