SPECIALISING IN YOUR WELLBEING

About Lymphoedema

ABOUT LYMPHOEDEMA

BREAST CANCER RELATED LYMPHOEDEMA

Breast cancer related Lymphoedema can affect up to 1 in 5 persons diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing treatment. Early detection surveillance and monitoring for breast cancer related lymphoedema can drastically minimise the risk of developing a potentially life long debilitating condition.

As per the Australasian Lymphology Association’s recommendations, those diagnosed with breast cancer should receive a pre-treatment Lymphoedema Index (L-Dex) baseline reading of the extra-cellular fluid of the at-risk healthy limb, and complete follow-up monitoring every 3 months for the first 2 years post treatment, then every 6 months for the 3rd year, and annually for years 4 and 5.

Early detection is facilitated by measuring the extra cellular fluid in the at-risk limb pre-and post breast cancer treatment, using the Bioimpedence Spectroscopy L-Dex unit. Lymphatic Solutions uses this technology in clinic, which has the capacity to detect the development of lymphoedema in the sub-clinical stage, between 4 and 10 months prior to any physical signs and symptoms are felt and observed.

Recent studies have shown that early intervention for Breast Cancer Related Lymphoedema significantly minimise the financial impact, as well as reduce the debilitating physical and psychosocial consequences for patients who have survived breast cancer treatment.

WHAT IS LYMPHOEDEMA?

Secondary or Acquired Lymphoedema, is a condition affecting the Lymphatic System that can arise following surgery, lymph node dissection, radiotherapy, trauma, or other damage to the lymphatic system following cancer therapies. In breast cancer, for example, it can appear in the arm on the same side as the cancer, after lymph nodes are removed from the armpit region for cancer staging.

Lymphoedema can cause significant swelling in the affected limb due to a disruption in the free flow of lymph fluid in the body, leading to excess fluid build-up in that part of the body.

Primary Lymphoedema, is a congenital abnormality where the lymphatic system is not functioning sufficiently.

Some early warning signs:

Some of the early warning signs and symptoms can include an achy, heavy, swollen or painful limb. You may also notice that rings, bracelets, watch bands, or clothing feel tighter than normal.

Stages of Lymphoedema

(ref: The International Society of Lymphology)
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STAGE 0

A latent or subclinical state where swelling is not evident despite impaired lymph transport.

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STAGE I

Early onset of the condition where there is an accumulation of tissue fluid with higher protein content, which subsides with elevation. Some pitting oedema may be present at this stage.

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STAGE II (early)

 Limb elevation alone rarely alleviates swelling and pitting is evident.

STAGE II (late)

The tissue is hard and pitting is absent. Skin changes such as thickening, hyperpigmentation, increase skin folds, fat deposits and warty overgrowth develop.

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STAGE III

At this stage swelling is spontaneously irreversible and the limb is usually very large.

WHAT IS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

The lymphatic system is made up of lymph fluid, lymphatic vessels, and lymph nodes. Fluid from the body’s tissues, lymph fluid, is transported via the vessels to the lymph nodes where bacteria, foreign cells, and cancer cells are filtered out. This process helps the body fight infection. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body including the armpit, groin, abdomen, chest and neck.