Lymphoedema

Fluid in the body is held in three main ways – inside of cells, in vessels such as blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, and as free tissue fluid. Tissue fluid bathes the cells, providing them with nutrients and receiving their waste products.

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lymphoedema oncology shoulder massage adelaide

The body has two major interconnected circulation systems. The blood system is well known and one of its functions is to deliver fluid containing nutrients to the cells. It does this by leaking plasma, containing nutrients such as oxygen, glucose and amino acids, from the capillaries into the tissue fluid. The lymph system is less well known and its role is to remove excess tissue fluid together with waste material from the cells. This waste, which includes proteins, is picked up and carried along lymph vessels and then returned to the venous blood system near the heart. Along the way, lymph vessels pass through lymph nodes, which filter and concentrate the lymph, as well as having an important immune function.

When the normal functioning of the lymph system becomes compromised or overloaded, proteins start to build up in the fluids of the body tissues. The increasing concentration of protein rich tissue fluid draws more fluid to the area. This build up of lymph fluid, and subsequent inflammatory processes, is called lymphoedema.

Lymphatic system disruption

Cancer surgery and radiation, especially in the underarm or pelvic area, often disrupts the lymphatic system. This is because lymph nodes may be removed during surgery, or because lymph nodes and vessels may be damaged by the surgery or radiation afterwards. For example, women who receive treatment for breast cancer may be at risk for developing lymphoedema in an arm. Men who receive treatment for prostate cancer may be at risk for lymphoedema in the legs.

Lymphoedema can develop months, or even years, after treatment for cancer. The risk seems to be higher for people who have several lymph nodes removed and for those who have both surgery and radiotherapy to the lymph nodes. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 20% of patients treated for melanoma, breast, gynaecological or prostate cancers will experience secondary lymphoedema.

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lymphoedema oncology massage adelaide shin massage

Often the first signs of lymphoedema may be a sense of fullness or heaviness in an arm or leg. It is best to seek attention sooner rather than later in order to successfully manage this side effect. Sometimes regular lymphatic drainage massage is all that is necessary. Sometimes a compression garment may need to be worn. Other times assessment may indicate the need for a more intensive and complex approach including bandaging, compression garments, skin care, low level therapeutic laser therapy, specific exercise and attention to diet. Learning how to do a simple self care lymphatic massage may be part of a care plan. There is no known cure for lymphoedema, but it can be managed with appropriate care.

Other causes of lymphoedema include genetic, obesity, medication, venous disorders and paralysis.

The Casley-Smith Lymphoedema Decongestive Therapy approach was developed in Australia as a result of world leading research into lymphoedema management.
Our mobile massage services aim to reduce and control swelling of the affected areas, improve range of movement and prevent infection.

If you have any queries about our lymphatic massage services, or would like to make a booking, please feel welcome to call Judy on 0423 041 122.

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under arm lymphoedema oncology massage adelaide

Client stories

 

Rose, lymphoedema client

Rose was a woman in her early sixties. As a thirteen year old in the Netherlands, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had surgery, followed by the recently developed cobalt radiation therapy. Later in life, she had numerous surgeries to help treat complications of this therapy, including femoral bypass, colectomy, thromboses, and recently mastectomy for breast cancer. Rose had a long history of lymphoedema in her right leg, which had been managed by weekly lymphatic drainage massage and a medical compression stocking. Within the last year, she had experienced oedema in the upper abdomen, right chest, axilla and upper arm. While visiting Australia, Rose continued her routine lymphatic drainage massages with Judy. Scar release work enabled further ease and comfort in her chest and arm.

 

Elizabeth, lymphoedema client

Elizabeth, a woman in her late forties, had received treatment for breast cancer, including the removal of all lymph nodes from her left axilla (armpit). She was receiving lymphoedema management from a clinic and was looking for additional lymphatic massage from a therapist who could visit her at home. Her sessions included lymphatic drainage massage, scar release work, and body work to address other aches and pains. Elizabeth often commented on the increased ease in her arm following her sessions. “My arm feels wonderful.”

 

Sunni, lymphoedema client

Sunni, a woman in her late fifties, had been diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. Surgeries included hysterectomy and large bowel removal. Now approaching end of life, she was now experiencing considerable fluid collection in the abdomen and swelling in her lower legs. Sunni was seeking help to reduce emotional stress and to provide comfort for her legs. Sunni enjoyed several massages and her family learned simple ways to support her by moisturising and massaging her legs.

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