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Living with lymphoedema

There’s no known cure for lymphoedema but it can be managed with appropriate care. The treatments recommended vary depending on the severity of symptoms and how long you have had lymphoedema. A GP can provide information about suitable treatment options for lymphoedema. A qualified lymphoedema therapist can help – a breast care nurse or GP can provide a referral.

Identifying and treating infections

It’s important to see a doctor urgently if the area affected by lymphoedema swells quickly or becomes red and warm. This may be a sign of a skin infection, called cellulitis, which can be treated with antibiotics. Women with cellulitis may need to rest in bed and elevate the affected arm. Other skin conditions, such as tinea, eczema and dermatitis, should also be treated as soon as possible.

Coping with lymphoedema

Living with lymphoedema is not just about the physical symptoms. Symptoms of lymphoedema may cause women to feel upset or embarrassed about how their body looks. This may affect the way a woman feels about herself and her relationships with other people. The physical aspects of lymphoedema may also affect a woman’s lifestyle and work.

Women who are diagnosed with lymphoedema may feel upset or sad. Most people find that these feelings ease with time as they learn how to manage the condition.

If you have lymphoedema, you may find it helpful to talk to those close to you and let them know how you’re feeling. You may prefer to talk to a member of your treatment team, such as your doctor, lymphoedema practitioner or Indigenous health worker. Call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 to find out about cancer support groups in your local area so that you can talk to other people who have experienced lymphoedema.

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