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Lymphoedema early intervention pilot

Early intervention is key to preventing chronic lymphoedema, which is why lymphoedema therapists want patients and practitioners to know the early warning signs this Lymphoedema Awareness Month.

The lymphatic system works to transport fluid and filter harmful substances from the body. 

Lymphoedema can occur when this system is compromised by surgery or medical treatments. 

Sufferers experience abnormal swelling typically in the arms or legs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. If patients present with symptoms including swelling, tightness, aching and cellulitis, they should be assessed by a lymphoedema practitioner. 

Hornsby and Royal North Shore hospitals are both involved in a new pilot program by the NSW Ministry of Health aimed at preventing chronic lymphoedema through early intervention in breast cancer patients across Northern Sydny Local Health District. 

Referrals are made through the breast cancer multi-disciplinary team.

The program grant provides funding as well as lymphoedema management training for two lymphoedema therapists. 

By funding the position of Megan Hamilton, the grant has enabled Hornsby Hospital to offer lymphoedema for the first time.

At RNSH, Stephanie Jamison was able to join the Occupational Therapy Department.

Lymphoedema is reversible at the very early stages, but progression of the condition can cause it to become irreversible, so we want to detect it as early as possible.
Occupational Therapist Stephanie Jamison

The pilot project also provides both departments with a SOZO body composition analyser machine.

“The device sends a low-level electrical signal through the body,” Stephanie said.

“As lymphoedema develops, the amount of fluid will increase, making it easier for the signal to travel through the limb. The device compares limbs at-risk with a normal or healthy range.

“It’s non-invasive, it’s quick, and it can give us an insight into whether there’s changes happening before the person experiences any symptoms. 

“That gives us the chance to apply intervention measures that prevent lymphoedema from being established.”

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