Managing Lymphoedema

Many of you won’t need any explanation from me on the nature of lymphoedema, but for those readers who might not be familiar with this side effect of cancer treatment, here’s a quick overview.

Lymph is a colourless fluid forming in the tissues of the body and normally draining back into the blood circulation, through a network of vessels and nodes called the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes act as filter stations and play an important part in the body’s defence against infection, by removing excess protein, dead or abnormal cells and bacteri.

As the flow of lymph is dammed up behind damaged or blocked drainage routes, fluid accumulates in surrounding tissues and swelling (oedema) occurs.

Primary lymphoedema is usually determined from birth, and can affect infants, children, men or women at any age.

Secondary lymphoedema is related to damage or blockage of lymph drainage routes following infection, trauma (surgery or radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer) and other medical conditions.

Two important points I’d like to make are that everyone with lymphoedema needs access to advice, treatments and a minimum provision of care, and precautions must be taken to avoid overloading your remaining lymph drainage routes. The condition cannot be reversed but a number of treatments can help control it.

As part of their run up to Breast Health Day, Europa Donna Ireland, the Irish Breast Cancer Campaign have organised two talks on prevention and management of lymphoedema and exercise during and after breast cancer.

Sine Vasquez, a clinical specialist and physiotherapist at Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital will be the expert speaker at Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 on the following dates:

  • Lymphoedema Awareness – Tues 4th Oct. 7pm
  • Exercise, during and after Breast Cancer -Tues 11th Oct. 7pm
These talks should be very informative and helpful and it is also an opportunity to meet other women recovering from breast cancer. Hope to see you there!