In South Australia, approximately 1 in 5 breast cancer patients who have axillary lymph node dissection and 5% of breast cancer patients who have sentinel node biopsy, will develop lymphoedema. The chronic, long-term condition causes swelling in the body due to the lymphatic system not working correctly.
“I soon realised that lymphoedema is one of those diseases that you must learn to live with. So I always wear a tight sports top, which serves for compression,” says Beryl. “I’ve been remembering to massage every day and trying to keep active.”
While screening tests are currently carried out on women with a high-risk of developing post-operative lymphoedema, the new study funded by Beryl will expand the screening to all women prior to breast cancer surgery, and across the following five years.
Thanks to Beryl’s donation, each week, around five breast cancer patients requiring surgery will increase their understanding of lymphoedema and the risks associated with breast cancer treatment. And importantly, the early screening has the potential to reverse the difficult condition when it is detected.
“Early detection in conjunction with immediate interventions, such as compression and exercises, can reduce the long term physical and functional impact that occurs with the development and progression of lymphoedema,” says Professor Neil Piller, Director of the Lymphoedema Clinic Research Unit, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.
Director of Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute, Professor Raymond Chan is leading the new research study and has formed a multi-disciplinary team that includes, Professor Neil Piller; Amanda Jones, Advanced Practice Nurse Consultant Breast/Endocrine at Flinders Medical Centre; Brian Simpson, Manager of the Physiotherapy Department at Flinders Medical Centre; and Marielle Esplin, Research Officer of the Lymphoedema Clinical Research Unit at Flinders University.
“Through this new study, the opportunity for increasing patient awareness, along with effective and timely supports, plus reducing the costs to the health system are enormous,” says Professor Piller.