Tuesday, February 19th, 2013


The Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA) will launch National Lymphoedema Awareness Month on 1 March to alert cancer patients and survivors of the hidden risks of developing complications of some cancer treatments.

In 2013, around 8,000 cancer survivors will suffer complications from cancer treatments because they are unaware they are at high risk of developing lymphoedema, a little known, life-long complication of some cancer treatments for breast, prostate, melanoma and gynaecological cancers including ovarian cancer. There is no cure.

Many cancer survivors will unknowingly be suffering from the early stages of secondary lymphoedema and without appropriate diagnosis and specialised, individualised treatment, the condition can progress making the skin prone to thickening and the development of fibrosis and other secondary changes.

Complications include infections such as skin ulcers, cellulitis, lymphangitis, lymphadenitis, (in severe cases sepsis) and in some extreme cases lead to amputation of extremities and limbs.

For many cancer survivors, having been confronted by cancer and the battle to survive only to find the life-threatening disease is replaced with a life-long, distressing and often debilitating disorder that has no cure, is heartbreaking.

If left undiagnosed or mismanaged, this condition can lead to repeated hospitalisation due to cellulitis in the affected limbs which cause devastating, ongoing effects on both the social, financial and emotional wellbeing of sufferers.

The month-long national Lymphoedema Awareness Month campaign aims to help educate cancer patients about the early signs and symptoms of lymphoedema, remind sufferers to carefully manage their condition, and raise funds for vital research to help find more effective treatments to minimise the impact lymphoedema may have on the health and quality of life of cancer survivors and importantly, to reduce the cost of treatment to the Australian healthcare system.

It is estimated that 400,000 Australians sufferer from lymphoedema. In launching Lymphoedema Awareness Month, Dr Helen Mackie, a specialist lymphedema medical consultant and President of the ALA said, “With early intervention being the primary means of limiting the impact lymphoedema has on patients, we aim to educate those most at risk about the early signs and symptoms so they can seek early diagnosis and treatment to minimise the impact the disorder might have on their health and their life.”

According to Cancer Australia, of the 120,700 people diagnosed with cancer each year (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), around 41% (50,000) have a 20% risk of developing secondary lymphoedema with approximately 12,000 survivors likely to develop the disorder to some degree. Of these, up to 2,500 will develop severe lymphoedema and as cancer survival rates improve (to levels of 85% for breast cancer), the incidence of a patient developing lymphoedema increases year by year.

Approximately 100,000 Australians have primary lymphoedema but those most at risk of developing secondary lymphoedema are cancer survivors where damage to the lymphatic system has occurred as a result of removal of lymph nodes, radiation or chemotherapy treatments with the number of Australian cancer survivors with secondary lymphoedema conservatively estimated at 300,000.

Visit www.lymphoedema.org.au today to learn the symptoms of lymphoedema, locate a registered practitioner, make a donation or register an Iced Tea Party™.


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lymphoedema; australasian lymphology association; breast cancer; Dr Helen Mackie; prostate cancer; melonoma



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