LYMPHOEDEMA IS A CHRONIC SWELLING WHICH COMMONLY OCCURS AS A SIDE EFFECT OF CANCER TREATMENT. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT 20% OF PATIENTS WHO HAVE UNDERGONE BREAST CANCER SURGERY WILL GO ON TO DEVELOP LYMPHOEDEMA. IT IS A PROGRESSIVE DISEASE AND EARLY INTERVENTION IS RECOMMENDED.
AT MPPP WE OFFER LYMPHOEDEMA THERAPY FOR THE UPPER LIMB AND CHEST AREAS.
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is the regional accumulation of excessive amounts of fluid in the body. The condition usually affects the limb(s) although it may also involve the trunk, breast, head and neck or genital area.
The lymphatic system is a made up of vessels and nodes throughout the body that transports specialised fluid (lymph) from the tissues back to the bloodstream. When this system is impaired it is unable to efficiently remove this fluid from the body and therefore, chronic swelling develops.
What causes Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema most commonly arises due to damage to the lymphatic system. The damage most commonly occurs as a result of cancer treatments such as surgical removal of lymph nodes, radiotherapy to lymph nodes and certain chemotherapy treatments.
Other factors that can increase the chances of developing lymphoedema are trauma to the area, infection especially of the skin (cellulitis), increased body mass index (BMI) and immobility. The onset of lymphoedema can be at any time. It may occur within months of the cancer treatment or appear years later.
What is the incidence of Lymphoedema?
It has been suggested by the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC) that 20% of breast, genitourinary, gynaecological, or melanoma survivors will experience lymphoedema at some point in their lives.
What are the early warning signs of Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema usually has a gradual onset. In the earliest stage of lymphoedema the patient will have no awareness of the changes that are occurring within the body.
Once the condition has progressed the patient may feel aching, heaviness, stiffness, limitation of movement, tightness or temperature changes in a certain area of the body such as arm or leg. Clothing, jewellery or shoes may feel tighter. Lymphoedema is not usually a painful condition.
Patients report that the swelling associated with lymphoedema is often aggravated by heat, at the end of the day, with overuse, with sustained positions and prolonged inactivity. They report that gentle exercise, elevation, massage and compression can ease their symptoms.
How is Lymphoedema diagnosed?
An accurate diagnosis is essential for appropriate therapy. This is determined from the clinical history and physical examination to exclude other possible conditions by a GP or Oncologist.
Are there any complications that can arise with Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a progressive disease and early intervention is recommended to minimise time and age-related changes. If not treated the swelling causes thickening of the tissues and puts the patient at a much greater risk of developing infections and skin ulcers.
It is vital for lymphoedema sufferers to be aware of the symptoms of infection and to seek treatment at the first signs, since recurrent infections, in addition to their inherent danger, further damage the lymphatic system and set up a vicious cycle.
What can be done to treat Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema cannot be cured however there is high levels of evidence to show that the swelling can be prevented, reduced and/or maintained with appropriate treatment. Early intervention is imperative to achieving the best outcomes. Therefore, if a patient is a risk of developing lymphoedema, it is highly recommended they see a lymphoedema therapist to gain strategies to prevent it from developing and ensure they are aware of the early signs that it may be developing it.
Best practice management is provided by a lymphoedema therapist who can perform ‘Complete Decongestive Therapy’. This treatment involves any combination of:
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and
Treatment is individualised for each client and not all components of treatment may be necessary in all cases.
Lymphoedema at MPPP
Rebecca Liberatore is a qualified Physiotherapist with extensive experience in Women's & Men's Pelvic Health. She is also a qualified Upper Limb Lymphoedema Therapist and is available for consultations at Melbourne Pregnancy and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy in East Keilor or Essendon.
At MPPP we offer Lymphoedema Therapy for the Upper Limb and Chest areas.
Pre-operative assessment and education
Treatment of cording and post-op scar management
Treatment of shoulder dysfunction post-surgery
Complete Decongestive Therapy (Upper limb only) including:
Manual lymphatic drainage
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that qualifies you for a Chronic Disease Management Plan that can be obtained through your GP. It can also be claimed through most Private Health Extras policies.
You can book now for our Lymphoedema services at our Essendon or East Keilor Locations. Booking available online or call our reception team for an appointment on 93379125.
Further Questions? Please contact us below and we will be in contact.
To read more about the role of exercise in the management of cancer and cancer symptoms follow this link to the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia.