Lymphoedema is a side effect of some cancer treatments
When you are diagnosed with any form of cancer that can be frightening but then to be diagnosed with lymphoedema as a direct result of your cancer treatment is a double whammy. Lymphoedema is mostly diagnosed in a limb but can also be diagnosed in the head, neck, breast, and genital areas.
Once the lymphatic system is damaged, we focus on the successful ways of managing your lymphoedema, how to control and reduce your swelling with the support of lymphoedema practitioners or therapists. If you find any swelling, please show your cancer team. The earlier you receive your diagnosis the earlier you can be referred to a lymphoedema specialist and you can start treatment. However, it does require you to learn to take an active part in your own management and eventually you will learn to know what works for you. Please ask your practitioner to show you how you can manage your symptoms at home. Listen to the advice your practitioner will give you on skin care, compression, hydration, and movement.
Cancer related lymphoedema is likely to be found in the first few weeks or months after your cancer treatment but we do have members that have gone several years before developing lymphoedema.
When I was diagnosed there was little help or support and thankfully that has changed now there are some exceptionally good lymphoedema support groups, including our own lymphoedema support group.
Cancer treatments may cause Lymphoedema
If the surgeon removes lymph nodes.
The future is hopeful that new surgical techniques will reduce or prevent the incidences of lymphoedema.
A team of specialists are involved in your treatment in my case it was a Breast Surgeon, Radiologist, Pathologist, Oncologist and Breast Care nurses. Each cancer will have its own specialist team.
Radiotherapy is used to treat cancer in the lymph nodes or an area where there are lymph nodes.
Radiotherapy can damage the body's lymphatic system.
To reduce your risk maintain good skincare, a healthy lifestyle and #getmoving.
A combination of treatments.
Your cancer team will discuss with you the best options, and this may be a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and cancer medication.
Surgery and radiation therapy treats the cancer that is confined to one area, while the cancer drugs kill the cancer cells that may have spread to distant sites.
Not everyone who has cancer treatment will develop lymphoedema.
However, always when you have had any form of cancer treatment check for any unusual swelling.
Keep your skin in good condition, follow a healthy lifestyle and #getmoving
Lowering your risk of Lymphoedema
Check daily for skin changes (peau d'orange or orange peel skin.
It is essential to keep your skin in good condition. Wash your skin everyday.
Moisturise and protect your skin from drying out.
Check and protect your skin from scratches and grazes.
Clothes and jewellery should not leave indentations.
The lymphatic system does not have its own pump to move lymph fluid you must keep moving.
Movement and exercise has a positive affect on lymphoedema swelling, improves mental health improves our lymphatic health therefore, improving our overall health and wellbeing.
Maintain a healthy weight.
We know that carrying too much weight puts a strain on our organs and it also puts a strain on our lymphatic system.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle not only reduces the risk of developing lymphoedema, but it helps with the management if you live with this condition.
Caution is advised to your affected limb of any invasive procedures.
No invasive procedures to the affected area
No blood pressure readings/blood tests, injections, IVS
Wherever possible use the opposite side to your treatment.
From time to time, we conduct polls on our support group asking our members questions about their lymphoedema. Sadly, there is never a big response. On this poll I asked members who had cancer related lymphoedema Where was their lymphoedema situated? One hundred and thirty-six members took part, and this is how the answered.
Arms - 59 votes
Legs -31 votes
Breast 28 - votes
Trunk/Torso - 16 Votes
Genital - 5 votes
These results are simplification as this was a multiple-choice question and those members that took part in the poll stated that they may have arms/breast/trunk lymphoedema while those with leg lymphoedema may also have legs/genital/trunk lymphoedema. No simple answer. Interestingly no one ticked the head and neck box. I have also asked any member with head and neck lymphoedema whether they would talk to me or write and article for our community and there was no response.
The respondents to this poll where all female