As we approach the end of 2023, we reflect on the strides in advanced medical procedures achieved on our island, thanks to the collaboration of world-class medical professionals, dedicated healthcare partners, and cutting-edge equipment. Doctors Hospital marked a significant milestone by successfully conducting the Caribbean’s inaugural lymphoedema surgery. Dr. Anne Dancey led the groundbreaking procedure, with assistance from Dr. Keith Allison and Dr. Tanja Ebanks. This pioneering effort resulted from a collaboration between Doctors Hospital, Cayman Surgery Group, and the Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation, offering renewed hope for patients grappling with lymphoedema.
Often referred to as “cancer’s dirty secret,” lymphoedema is a chronic inflammatory condition that commonly occurs after the removal of lymph nodes during breast, ovarian, cervical, and prostatic cancer treatments.
Characterized by severe swelling in limbs or specific body areas, lymphoedema poses challenges such as difficulty fitting into clothing and jewelry, limited mobility, recurrent skin infections, and the development of tight or thickened skin.
Statistics from the Journal of Clinical Oncology reveal that approximately 30% of breast cancer patients worldwide experience lymphoedema, a prevalent issue in the Cayman Islands, where breast cancer is the most frequently reported cancer. While the exact number of lymphoedema cases in the Cayman Islands remains uncertain, the rising number of cancer patients reporting symptoms underscores its growing significance.
Individuals with lymphoedema require regular clinic follow-ups for compression hosiery and specialized massage techniques to alleviate fluid buildup causing swelling. Moreover, they face the risk of severe infections necessitating hospitalization, potentially becoming life-threatening.
Dr. Anne Dancey and her team exclusively offer vascularized superficial lymph node transfer, a contemporary surgical technique. Dr. Dancey expressed her admiration for the swift adaptation of Doctors Hospital’s theatre and ward staff to this specialized procedure, highlighting the necessity of acquiring new skills. “I am so impressed with how the Doctors Hospital theatre and ward staff embraced this new procedure and rapidly learnt what they needed to do. It is a very specialized procedure requiring a new set of skills. Developing these skills will allow them to assist me regularly with microsurgery in the Cayman Islands.”
She emphasized the importance of international training and acknowledged the assistance of Dr. Keith Allison from the UK, highlighting the collaborative efforts of Dr. Tanja Ebanks and Miss Montana Kitt. “I was so grateful to have the support of a fellow plastic surgery colleague from the UK, Dr. Keith Allison, who assisted me with the surgery to provide the care that these patients deserve. I am also blessed to have Dr Tanja Ebanks and Miss Montana Kitt to also support me with this new procedure.”
Dr. Dancey envisions a promising future for lymphoedema surgery in the Cayman Islands, leveraging state-of-the-art equipment to expand surgical possibilities. This advancement enables healthcare providers to monitor patients and assess lymphoedema development before visible symptoms emerge.
Reflecting on this groundbreaking achievement, Dr. Dancey conveyed her honor in introducing this innovative procedure to benefit the Cayman Islands’ lymphoedema patients, emphasizing the inclusivity of reconstructive surgery for all cancer patients, regardless of age or background.