Early detection of cancer related lymphoedema 

Irish Cancer Society announces launch of pilot project focusing on the early detection of cancer related lymphoedema 

The Irish Cancer Society has today announced the launch of a three-year pilot project taking place in University Hospital Limerick focusing on the early detection of cancer related lymphoedema. 

Lymphoedema is a swelling that can occur in the arm, hand or trunk after cancer treatments including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and endocrine therapies. These treatments can compromise the lymphatic system and lead to a build-up of lymph fluid which causes pain, skin changes and reduced function. This can be very distressing and adversely affect quality of life.

Early detection of lymphoedema can reduce your risk of developing lifelong lymphoedema by 95%. 

Initially all breast and gynaecological cancer patients receiving treatment in University Hospital Limerick that are deemed high risk for lymphoedema will be referred to the service. Each patient will then have their Lymphoedema Index score measured by a certified lymphoedema therapist in the physiotherapy department of the hospital pre and post treatment. If required, patients will then be treated with compression garments, skin care and tailored exercise programmes and monitored for up to two years. The programme also offers education & information sessions, online resources and support to patients throughout their involvement with the project.

Speaking at the launch of the service, Donal Buggy, Director of Services Delivery & Implementation at the Irish Cancer Society said: “Over the last number of years it has been repeatedly highlighted that there are a lack of services for lymphoedema patients in addition to a more general lack of focus on the education, prevention and early detection of lymphoedema. Therefore we are delighted to be investing in this project which will support the Irish Cancer Society’s commitment to drive innovation in cancer services through new initiatives.

We hope the project will also improve the experience and outcomes for patients as well as improve the quality of care for people already living with cancer related lymphoedeoma. We are hopeful that this pilot project will one day become part of a larger model of cancer care for patients across the country.”

Raheen local Emer Barry, a cancer patient undergoing monitoring as part of the project said: “Following a cancer diagnosis and the treatment that follows, there is a lot of information to digest which can be overwhelming. Thankfully the lymphoedema early detection service in University Hospital Limerick removes the stress and worry related to the development of lymphoedema. I know that I’m being monitored closely, and can ask any questions in my follow up appointments. The service provides reassurance and confidence that I am receiving the best possible care to prevent or catch any signs of lymphoedema at an early stage.

Dr Denis O’Keeffe, Consultant Haematologist and Director of Cancer Services for UL Hospitals Group, said: “We are delighted to see this project being opened in University hospital Limerick. The early detection of lymphoedema in high risk patients will provide the opportunity to treat and prevent more serious long term issues. It will also provide great support for patients who develop this very difficult and often challenging complication.”

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm

Roz, Cancer Nurseline