Help on the way for lymphoedema sufferers

TREATMENT ON THE WAY: Lymphoedema patients Cheryl Finch, Lesely Braithwaite, Dulcie Hoggan and Loraine Baron from the Mount Gambier Breast Cancer Awareness Group celebrate years of advocacy for a lymphoedema specialist to be stationed at the Mount Gambier and District Hospital.

SPECIALISED treatment for lymphoedema will be available at the Mount Gambier and District Hospital in what has been labelled as a groundbreaking achievement.

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition characterised by the swelling of particular body parts caused by problems with the lymphatic system.

Community members with the condition across Mount Gambier, known as the Lymphoedema Ladies, have spent years lobbying for better services and treatments available in the region and are now celebrating their next milestone.

Previously, treatment for the condition was only available privately from one specialist within Mount Gambier, but now this specialist will be available at the local hospital one day a week to assist those in need of treatment who may not be able to access it privately.

Cancer survivor and lymphoedema patient Ducie Hoggan said having the one day a week treatment available publicly was a game changer.

“This means those who cannot afford private access now have a secondary option,” Ms Hoggan said.

“The more choices clients have the better we can have them diagnosed and by having the services available once a week allows for more regular check ups for patients if needed.”

Celebrating the win after years of advocacy, Ms Hoggan said it would change the lives of those living with the chronic disease.

“Having specialists readily available each week allows them to note progress in patients better and alter the treatments if it isn’t working properly,” she said.

“Not only that but it will increase awareness around lymphoedema and encourage people to talk about it more openly.”

Speaking from her own experience, Ms Hoggan said treatment was difficult to secure within the Limestone Coast with only the one specialist.

“With lymphoedema you need that guidance and it really is not something we can manage on our own,” she said.

“We do need to constantly see a lymphoedema practitioner because there are many things we need to be mindful of such as the way we massage our arms, our work or even blood tests and getting our blood pressure taken.”

Also celebrating the milestone was Loraine Baron from the Mount Gambier Breast Cancer Awareness Group which had been advocating for further lymphoedema support alongside the local group.

Ms Baron said the support group were amazed at learning the treatment was coming to the local hospital.

“It is great to see things are moving forward and there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we do hope that having this treatment available will help increase awareness for those who do have lymphoedema,” Ms Baron said.

“This kind of treatment will help people get an early diagnosis which is what we really focus on through the machines available and this can then help prevent patients from needing treatment while the bandaging helps prevent it from becoming chronic.”

The announcement was celebrated on Wednesday evening with previous Lymphoedema Support Group SA president Monique Bareham attending an evening meal with supporters.

Ms Bareham said the announcement was a huge step forward to treatment after working towards securing the one day a week treatment for many years.

“This means those who don’t have access to private specialists will now be able to get their compression garments through the public sector,” Ms Bareham said.

“It is an incredibly satisfying thing to have happen and what I have felt is an overwhelming sense of relief because I know how much long term, unmanaged lymphoedema really impacts people.”

Alongside the treatment, advocates have also been calling on the Federal Government to put lymphoedema treatment on the Medicare system, with Ms Bareham still lobbying for a positive outcome.