Physiotherapy For Lymphoedema in Bendigo
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes throughout the body that transports fluid (lymph) from the body tissues back to the bloodstream. The functions of the lymphatic system are to balance the protein and fluid concentration in the body and to assist the immune process, thereby maintaining good health.
Causes of Lymphoedema
Lymphoedema may be caused by an under developed lymphatic system (primary) or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels (secondary). It can occur anywhere in the body. Secondary lymphoedema most commonly occurs after surgery for breast cancer, pelvic cancer and melanoma when lymph nodes were removed or radiated.
Primary lymphoedema While the exact cause of primary lymphoedema is still unknown, it generally occurs due to poorly-developed or missing lymph vessels and/or nodes in the body. Lymphoedema can be inherited. It may be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty, or not become apparent for many years into adulthood.
Secondary lymphoedema results from damage to the lymphatic system, most commonly caused by surgical procedures for cancer involving the lymph nodes. The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre review of research evidence on secondary lymphoedema states “conservative estimates suggest that 20% of breast, genitourinary, gynaecological, or melanoma survivors will experience secondary Lymphoedema”.
Other surgical procedures or traumatic injuries may also damage the lymphatic system leading to secondary lymphoedema, eg following joint replacement surgery or accidents where a large amount of skin is damaged.
Lymphoedema as a result of treatment for cancer Recent research has pointed to the benefits of early detection since skin changes consistent with early stage lymphoedema can be detected by the trained eye and with special tests, often within 6-12 months post operatively. Potential increased risk may occur in people who had a post operative wound infection, who are overweight and tend to be inactive. In the breast cancer population, women typically gain 2.5-6kg and tend to be physically deconditioned following treatment .
Treatment at Physiotherapy Centre Bendigo
Rosalind Deacon has had many years of experience treating people with lymphoedema. Treatment can include education, exercise, specialized massage and compression garment prescription. Clinical Pilates and aquatic therapy are particularly useful.
Following cancer treatment, we aim to encourage people to feel confident to begin exercising generally which will promote their return to a healthy active lifestyle. We keep a watchful eye on the “at risk” part of the body to ensure lymphoedema is not occurring, and if it does develop to provide the appropriate therapy to minimise the swelling.
References and useful links
National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. Review of research evidence on secondary lymphoedema: Incidence, prevention, risk factors and treatment, NBOCC, Surry Hills, NSW, 2008. Document can be downloaded from http://www.nbocc.org.au/breasthealth/careafter/lymphoedema.html
Australasian Lymphology Association Web page and brochure https://www.lymphoedema.org.au/
National Lymphoedema Practitioners Register www nlpr.asn.au