Lymphedema awareness

ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: Mount Gambier physiotherapist Shelley Jevtic-Blachut will continue to provide support to those battling lymphodemia.

Charlotte Varcoe

WOMEN are urged to remain vigilant of lumps or soreness close to lymph nodes to recognise the early symptoms of lymphoedema.

Lymphoedema can occur when various forms of cancer are treated with either surgery or radiotherapy while also affecting the quality of life and ability to work.

The chronic condition is characterised by swelling of certain parts of the body, usually a limb, caused by problems with the lymphatic system.

The Mount Gambier Breast Cancer Awareness Group raised funds to purchase a SOZO Thrive machine in 2018, which allows patients to receive treatment and detect physical difficulties without needing to travel to Adelaide for treatment.

The machine measures the fluid within the patient’s body and detects whether they may be at risk of the condition.

Individuals who trend towards a higher level of fluid are typically kept under observation.

Physiotherapist Shelley Jevtic-Blachut said lymph node removal placed a higher risk for patients as nodes act as the body’s first defence against infections and diseases.

“Your body is trying to fight any form of foreign materials or objects which are going into the body, which means during cancer treatment the lymphatic system works overtime,” Ms Jevtic-Blachut said.

“The thing about lymphoedema is that it can happen anywhere in the body, including around the genitals.

“Those with lymphoedema come and see me and there are a number of different ways of treating the condition including compression bandages, massages and other forms of physiotherapy.”

Ms Jevtic-Blachut said lymphoedema symptoms were varied and ranged from swelling, restricted range of motion and recurring infections, with some patients reporting the feeling of a heavy arm, or indentations from clothing or watches.

“People may find an indentation from where their watch sits on their wrist or even a slight change of colour in their skin,” she said.

“Some have reported their clothing feeling tighter and sometimes there is pain as well.”

The physiotherapist said common treatment for the condition was compression bandages which assists in keeping the fluid to a management level.

“We also recommend exercise and breathing exercises to do lymphatic drainage but that has to be taught to the patient in the correct manner,” Ms Jevtic-Blachut said.

“Approximately 80 per cent of my clientele are struggling with lymphedema and what we are trying to do is treat people prior to them having surgery and intervention.

“We try to catch it as early as possible and teach the clients how to self-manage.”

Those wishing to receive treatment or need testing for the condition are able to contact Ms Jevtic-Blachut through Active8 Mount Gambier.