Lymphoedema is a chronic condition for which there is no cure and for which there are no pharmacological treatment agents available. Once established lymphoedema often negatively affects a person’s quality of life, physical function, body image and puts them at high risk of developing serious medical issues such as cellulitis infections.
Breast Lymphoedema is becoming an issue for cancer survivors. It has been found that 24.8% of patients undergoing breast conserving surgery and radiation develop breast edema in the first 18 months post breast cancer diagnosis. Research also finds that breast edema is correlated with breast pain, reduced quality of life, reduced physical function, poor body image and can impact negatively on sexuality.
Head and Neck Lymphoedema (both internal and external) post cancer treatment can affect 35-50% of survivors. Head and neck lymphoedema has a serious impact on quality of life due to its impact on swallowing and the changes to a person’s appearance. Swallowing difficulties can lead to weight loss, facial disfigurement, reduced neck ROM and changes in vocal quality.
The Dry July Foundation funded purchase of 2 lymphscanners (1 located at Wollongong Hospital the other at Shoalhaven Hospital) has provided our therapists with an objective way to measure tissue fluid levels in soft tissue areas throughout the body. This has been particularly important for head/neck and breast lymphoedema in which assessment was previously reliant solely on the therapist’s palpation skills and the person’s subjective symptoms. The purchase of the scanners has also enabled:
A standardized approach between therapists to objectively measure breast and head/neck lymphoedema.
Guides the therapist’s manual lymphatic drainage techniques.
Improved quality of life with improved management of lymphoedema with earlier detection in soft tissue regions.
Identifies areas of fluid congestion which is particularly helpful in the limbs.
Improved early identification of lymphoedema following breast Ca treatment for people with bilateral development risk.
So a big thank you to Dry July Foundation from the ISLHD Lymphoedema Physiotherapists (and from all our clients!)