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Early Intervention and Screening for Lymphoedema

Many cancer sufferers and survivers come to rehabilitation by accident and often are the ones actively seeking out cancer treatment-related therapies themselves. Proactive rehabilitation is not always easy to find for cancer patients as the oncology team is so focused on the cure and not what may happen after treatment. 

 

Oedema Clinics offers a proactive approach to Early Intervention (EI) providing education, strategies and therapies as well as screening for lymphoedema. Lymphoedema is one of cancer treament's potential side effects and is known as Seconday Lymphoedema, as it is caused as a result of treatment for another condition. Lymphoedema is commonly detected initially as excess swelling of the limb/s or other areas of the body near or adjacent to the surgical and/or radiation onclogy site.

 

Secondary Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system has been damaged in some way by surgical or radiation oncology procedures, for example; lymph node/s removal or damage to the lymph transport vessels. The lymphatic system is a one way system that removes fluid from all our tissues, filters the fluid through the lymph nodes and returns the filtered fluid back into the blood circulation, maintaining a balance of healthy fluid in the tissues.

 

Damage to the lymphatic system causes fluid quickly builds up in the tissues 'upstream' to the damage and creates many problems, and not just unsightly swelling (oedema). Over time the fluid-filled tissues experience changes that adversely affect the skin, muscles and fat and often the functioning of the limb/s of the affected area. Infections of the affected area are more prevalent and can be life-threatening requiring immediate hospitalisation and IV antibiotics. As the lymphatic system is an important part of the body's immune system, when the system is damaged and the tissues are damaged by lymphoedema it is important to take special care of the skin to prevent infections. 

 

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that requires specialised therapy and treatment. Lymphoedema cannot be cured but can be managed successfully with the assistance of trained therapists. Oedema Clinic therapists are specially trained in the treatment of Lymphoedema, endorsed by the Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA).

 

Whilst most cancer patients will not develop lymphoedema, all cancer patients will benefit from screening and Early Intervention (EI). The Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA) approved position is that "the early detection and management of subclinical lymphoedema may reduce the long term physical, functional and psychological effects caused by a later diagnosis and delayed management of the condition". Position Statement: Monitoring for the early detection of breast cancer related lymphoedema. ALA 2012

 

If your cancer treatment involves either surgery and/or radiation oncology Early Intervention and screening should occur pre-operative, 2-4 weeks post-operative and throughout the next 2 years at set intervals.

 

Oedema Clinics provide a wholistic approach to Early Intervention which includes addressing functional impairment of soft tissues and joints affected by surgery and/or radiation oncology.

 

Early Intervention has been shown to:

  • Promote optimal functional recovery and quality of life
  • Reduce the incidence and severity of lymphoedema (if it develops)
  • Reduce the incidence of adhesions and abnormal scar tissue development

Oedema Clinics Early Intervention provides therapy, education and guidance, coaching our clients not to be fearful of any swelling but how to reduce risk and empower themselves through risk reduction strategies and exercise.

 

Bio-Impedance Spectroscopy (BIS) technology is employed by Oedema Clinics to detect swelling in your arm or leg before a tape measure can. The test is painless and takes only a few minutes, and is performed in every Early Intervention consult.