What treatment can I get if I begin to develop lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema cannot be cured but the swelling can often be kept to a minimum, particularly when it is diagnosed early. Early treatment is always recommended, when the swelling is soft and easily managed.

The treatment aims to restore limb size and function, and reduce swelling caused by the build-up of lymph.

If you have unexplained swelling following treatment for cancer, you should tell your GP, nurse specialist or hospital doctor. Ask to be referred to a specialist lymphoedema therapist.

Treatment varies from person to person – from education, exercises and skin care advice for patients with mild lymphoedema to more intensive treatment for more severe cases.

More severe cases may require two phases of treatment:

1. An intensive phase of therapy, during which you may receive daily treatment by a lymphoedema therapists for up to six weeks. Treatment usually involves massage, skin care, bandaging and wearing a specially measured compression garment.

2. The maintenance phase, where the person continues treatment at home.

Early treatment is always recommended, when the swelling is soft and easily managed.

How can I cope better with lymphoedema?

With proper education and care lymphoedema can be kept under control and the swelling can be reduced. Lymphoedema is a condition that never goes away, that is why it is important to be involved in your lymphoedema care.

Keeping up with all the precautions and treatment plans can be demanding, but taking care of yourself and following your doctor or therapist’s advice can help to keep lymphoedema under control.

Here are some tips to help you to cope better:

  • Find out as much as possible about lymphoedema
  • Ask questions about your condition.
  • Try to be realistic in the goals you set for yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Talk to others who may be going through a similar experience – a support group like Lymphoedema Ireland can help.
  • Try to remain positive

Irish Cancer Society Logo221+ Patient Support Group thanks the Irish Cancer Society for permission to use the text of their booklet Reducing Your Risk of Arm and Leg Lymphoedema
and acknowledges the contribution of the original authors of the booklet.