NSW Parliament Acknowledges Importance of Lymphoedema

New South Wales Members of Parliament from all sides came together last Tuesday to speak on the importance of Lymphoedema awareness.

 The matter of public importance on Lymphoedema was raised in the Legislative Assembly by David Elliott, MP Baulkham Hills and supported by Shadow Health Minister and Member for Macquarie Fields, Dr Andrew McDonald MP, Member for Port Macquarie and former nurse Leslie Williams, and Member for Orange and former Lymphoedema patient Andrew Gee MP.

 Mr Elliott said he had been personally touched by Lymphoedema and that it was important to be ever vigilant against the condition.

 “My wife, Nicole, defeated breast cancer last year but is now, unfortunately, suffering from Lymphoedema,” Mr Elliott said.

 “Lymphoedema can occur at any time following treatment—in some cases up to 20 years later, and the recognition and management of the lifelong risk of Lymphoedema development is crucial to the quality of patient survival following breast cancer treatment.”

 Dr McDonald said Lymphoedema was a common side effect from an all too common affliction.

 “Breast Cancer must be raised continually with the community because it afflicts almost one in eight women under 85 years—about 15,000 people in Australia this year—and about 200,000 Australians who have had a breast cancer diagnosis,” Dr McDonald said.

 “About 20 per cent to 25 per cent of women who receive treatment for breast cancer will suffer Lymphoedema and 5 per cent to 7 per cent of those women will have severe symptoms.

 “In New South Wales about 800 people develop Lymphoedema each year as a result of breast cancer, and this costs the New South Wales health system around $6.5 million a year.”

 Mrs Williams said she had found, in her experience as a nurse, that support groups were invaluable for Lymphoedema patients.

 “The North Coast Cancer Institute at the Port Macquarie Base Hospital is home to a Lymphoedema support group, which already has about 40 members who meet regularly at the cancer centre,” Mrs Williams said.

 “This demonstrates why there is a need for support groups across the NSW for patients who have either primary or secondary lymphedema to come together in an environment which provides not only education and awareness but also, importantly, support.”

 Mr Gee said that Lymphoedema had hindered his ability to complete everyday tasks

 “I have quite a good insight into Lymphoedema as in the not–too-distant past I had a bout of Lymphoedema,” Mr Gee said.

 “In my case I wore a pressure stocking for weeks, if not months, to control the swelling, and that affected my daily activities.”

 Dr Helen Mackie, President of the Australasian Lymphology Association, said the ALA was working to establish patient management plans to minimize discomfort and inconvenience during patient recovery.

 “The Australasian Lymphology Association recommends that a documented management plan be developed that outlines intervention options, and it is best practice that such a plan is understood and accepted by the patient,” Dr Mackie said.

 “The ALA also believes that at least one member of the team managing the care of a breast cancer patient should be trained in the treatment of Lymphoedema, as well as the measurement of its objective symptoms before—I stress the word “before”—and after cancer treatment.”

 Lymphoedema is the swelling of one or more regions in the body as the result of an accumulation of excess fluid.

 It usually affects the limbs—the arms more prominently than anywhere else—and other areas of the body such as the breasts, neck and head.

 Lymphoedema is caused by a failure of the lymphatic system, which, if working normally, would transport that fluid from the body tissues back into the blood stream.