Breast Cancer Foundation steps in to support Kiwis living with lymphoedema
Breast Cancer Foundation NZ has launched a new service focusing on early intervention for those at risk of lymphoedema following breast cancer surgery. The announcement marks World Lymphoedema Day, March 6th.
The chief executive of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ), Evangelia Henderson, says lymphoedema can be a debilitating condition which affects around one in five Kiwi women who’ve had breast cancer surgery and lymph node removal.
“Lymphoedema leads to swelling in the affected area which can be painful and uncomfortable, especially in warmer weather. It limits mobility and can really take its toll, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, there’s no cure,” says Mrs Henderson.
“Not all District Health Boards have lymphoedema therapy available, or if they do, the demand is so great that people are kept waiting - and private therapy is expensive.
“Yet we know that if lymphoedema isn’t detected and managed well early, it can set in for life.Early intervention and education can equip people to self-manage their symptoms, which is why we’ve stepped in. The right treatment will empower these women for the rest of their lives.”
BCFNZ offers funding for lymphoedema therapy worth $180 (excl gst). Visit www.breastcancerfoundation.org.nz to apply.
Most women who have breast surgery will have some lymph nodes removed from the armpit, so lymph fluid can’t drain as well as it should. Many women also have radiation to that area, which can further damage the lymphatic system, and patients can end up with a swollen arm or chest, which can become permanent if left untreated. It might also lead to skin infections and cellulitis. If diagnosed and treated early, lymphoedema can be controlled and reduced. Exercise, wrapping, massage and compression can help.