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Oedema Care in


Oedema Clinics provides specialised physiotherapy for individuals undergoing, or recovering from, cancer treatment to regain normal activity quickly and to improve quality of life.

What is Oedema and why is it important in cancer treatment?


Oedema is swelling caused by the abnormal buildup of fluid in the body or a part of the body. The fluid collects under the skin within the soft tissues and can remain causing other symptoms such as pain, numbness and skin changes. Normally the lymphatic system carries the fluid away from the tissues, back to the blood. Oedema can occur at many stages in the treatment of cancer for a variety of reasons, depending on the treatment (surgery, radiation oncology, chemotherapy) and individual patient differences.


Relieving side effects is an important part of cancer care and treatment, and is especially important with oedema. It is important to talk with your health care team about any swelling you experience, including any new swelling or a change in the amount of swelling experienced.


Patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience swelling as some chemotherapy drugs can cause fluid retention in the body. This form of cancer swelling is most noticeable in the feet, ankles, hands, and face.


Patients undergoing surgical procedures can experience swelling around the surgical site or sometimes in areas some distance from the site. For example, with prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) some men will experience swelling in one or both of their lower limbs or with mastectomy (removal of a breast) some women experience swelling in the affected side arm. Many times this swelling is considered normal and will often go away and not be causes for concern. It is still advisable to visit a physiotherapist who has training and experience in managing this type of oedema. Oedema Clinics Physiotherapists specialise in the treatment and management of all forms of oedema and in particular as a result of cancer treatments. Contact Oedema Clinics to arrange a consultation on 1300 463 336


Sometimes oedema resulting from cancer treatment, in particular surgery and/or radiation oncology, can be a indication that the lymphatic system has been damaged and could lead to potential long-term continued swelling. This condition is known as Lymphoedema and requires specialised, individual therapy such as the Oedema Clinics therapists provide.


For patients undergoing surgery and/or radiation oncology, it is imperative to have early screening for the presence of fluid in the tissues which may indicate that Lymphoedema is developing. Oedema Clinics have developed a highly specialised and effective Early Intervention and Screening Program  - CANscreen  and provide services for each visit in the program at the flat rate of $99.


What are some symptoms of swelling to look for?

  • Feet and lower legs get larger when you sit or walk, unable to put on normal shoes?
  • Take a look at your feet, ankles and hands.  Are they swollen?  When you press on the skin with your finger, is there an indentation that stays for a few seconds?  If so, you may have "pitting edema"
  • Hands feel tight when you make a fist
  • Rings are too tight
  • Abdomen appears to be swollen or distended
  • Shortness of breath (especially when lying down)

Things you can do to manage swelling:

  • Elevate your affected limb/s as often as possible. (ideally with the limb higher than the level of your heart, for example; lie on the bed or couch with feet up on two pillows)
  • Do not stand for long periods of time
  • Avoid tight clothing (shoes, girdles, etc)
  • Do not cross your legs
  • Reduce your salt intake if swelling is present. Avoid highly salted foods such as potato chips, tomato juice, bacon, ham, canned soups, soy sauce, and table salt
  • Try to eat a balanced diet high in green leafy vegetables
  • If your swelling is severe, see your Cancer Care physiotherapist at Oedema Clinics to assess your oedema and/or have a compression garment prescribed
  • Weigh yourself daily. Notify your doctor or health care provider if you have gained 2 kilograms or more in a week.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed

What does it mean if the oedema lasts longer than a few days after cancer surgery?


This is generally a normal reaction to the surgery and usually will subside. It is still advisable to visit your Oedema Clinics therapist who has training and experience in managing this type of oedema. You may need acute oedema management therapy which will assist to return the fluid back to the circulatory system. Importantly, it is best to start the Early Intervention Program in case the oedema is an indication of longer-term lymphoedema.


What does it mean if the oedema lasts longer than a few weeks?


This longer-term oedema after cancer surgery requires management as it may affect the soft tissues, skin and the function of the part of the body affected. It is advisable to talk to your doctor and to see your Oedma Clinics therapist for oedema management.


Our multidisciplinary approach to cancer care uses evidence-based treatments and new innovative
technologies to treat complications arising from cancer treatments, proactively screen and
minimise lymphoedema, should it develop, and to improve quality of life through active rehabilitation exercises.