During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Icon Cancer Centre was busy spreading the word about lymphoedema screening and early intervention as part of the breast cancer care continuum. Patients were educated on the importance of remaining vigilant after breast cancer treatment ends, as secondary lymphoedema can develop weeks, months, or even years post-treatment.
One in five breast cancer patients who undergo axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) will develop secondary lymphoedema2 – where failure of the lymphatic system following treatment results in swelling of the upper limb.
This risk is significantly increased when surgery is combined with radiation therapy and may also be increased by chemotherapy drugs, either alone or in combination with radiation.3,4
Clinical lymphoedema is preceded by a subclinical or latent stage, where the lymphatic system is impaired, but swelling is not yet obvious. These early stages of lymphoedema may exist months or even years before overt swelling occurs.
A chronic condition with no cure, established clinical lymphoedema can result in significant physical, functional, psychological, and financial burden, in addition to the initial burden of a person’s breast cancer.5
Fortunately, the earlier lymphoedema is detected at a sub-clinical stage, the better it can be managed to prevent progression to clinical signs and symptoms.5
International studies have demonstrated that routine screening for lymphoedema, combined with early intervention including education, short-term compression therapy and exercise, can reduce lymphoedema progression by 95%.6
Our lymphoedema screening and early intervention services
As part of our commitment to provide the best possible cancer care, Icon Cancer Centre proudly provide a lymphoedema screening and early intervention service for people with breast cancer. The team collaborate with surgeons, lymphoedema specialists, specialist nurses and general practitioners to ensure this service reaches as many people diagnosed with breast cancer as possible.
Our screening service provides:
- complimentary screening conducted by trained healthcare professionals, including baseline screening to identify risk of developing lymphoedema
- measurement using SOZO® – the latest technology for breast cancer-related lymphoedema
- follow-up screening to monitor any changes
- no out-of-pocket costs for the first 12 months of screening
- no referral required for the screening service
- access to further treatment if required.
Icon works closely with accredited therapists who specialise in lymphoedema therapy and management for those at risk of developing lymphoedema.
Where subclinical lymphoedema is detected during screening, a referral will be made to a qualified lymphoedema therapist for education and management. Patients may be advised to consult their GP regarding their suitability for a chronic disease management plan.
The optimal management of patients with breast cancer requires the expertise of multidisciplinary specialists, including GPs. Through patient education on the importance of early detection and support in accessing lymphoedema screening and early intervention services, GPs play a significant role in reducing the incidence and progression of breast cancer-related lymphoedema.
For further information about the service, click here.
Please note, a referral is not required to access the lymphoedema screening service, so patients can contact Icon Cancer Centre directly. A referral to a therapist may be subject to additional costs.
Disclaimer: This article was provided by Icon Cancer Centre. While every effort has been made to ensure the information is accurate, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network does not warrant or represent the accuracy, currency and completeness of any information or material included within.