Peter Mac is a leader in supporting patients with cancer who develop lymphoedema.

During Lymphoedema Awareness Month this March we highlight how Peter Mac’s lymphoedema therapists and physiotherapists can help patients to reduce risk factors and to manage the condition.

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema refers to the chronic swelling of a body part which is caused by the accumulation of fluid and protein in the tissue spaces.

“Lymph nodes act like a drain in your sink – if the drain is clogged, the fluid cannot drain,” explains Physiotherapist and lymphoedema therapist Megan Howard.

“This usually happens in the arms or legs, but can happen in other parts of the body due to a disruption in the lymphatic system.”

Some cancer treatments can cause lymphoedema; this is called secondary lymphoedema and can occur any time following treatment, but is most commonly seen within the first two years after treatment, due to:

  • Surgical removal of lymph nodes and vessels that carry lymph fluid,
  • Radiation treatment can disturb or damage the lymph vessels,
  • Tumours blocking or compressing the lymphatic pathways, or
  • Inflammation within the lymph vessels.

Tips for preventing lymphoedema

  • Good skin care is essential. Use a pH neutral body wash and moisturise your skin daily with a good quality moisturiser.
  • Prevent infections – e.g. keep the skin on your limb clean, apply antibacterial ointment to any cuts or injuries to the limb, and avoid injections or blood tests in the arm at risk.
  • Allow blood/lymph fluid to flow freely – e.g. Don’t wear tight clothing or jewellery on the affected limb.
  • Exercise regularly – aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

For more information about lymphoedema, speak with your treating team at Peter Mac or refer to one of the helpful resources below.