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Changing lives at our Lymphoedema clinic

With this week marking Lymphoedema Awareness week, St Catherine’s Hospice is celebrating the difference its outpatient clinic makes to patients. A stand-alone service, the clinic is open to everyone in the local community, not just those cared for by the hospice.

About the clinic

The clinic offers treatment to over 400 patients with cancer and non cancer related swelling. The majority of patients attending the clinic have developed Lymphoedema following cancer treatment which has caused damage to the lymphatic system. This has resulted in fluid accumulating in the tissues and causing swelling. However a large number of patients have what is referred to as ‘non cancer related swelling’. Examples of this varied group include people with a history of chronic cellulitis, restricted mobility due to neurological conditions, people who’ve had trauma injuries which have impaired their lymphatic drainage and people who’ve been born with lymphatic system abnormalities.

How the clinic helps people

Swelling can occur anywhere in the body, but is most likely to affect the limbs. As with other care provided by St Catherine’s, treatment is planned on an individual basis. This includes a combination of skin care, exercise, the application of compression garments and Manual Lymphatic Drainage. Initial treatment is aimed at reducing the swelling which may require specialist bandaging over a period of several weeks. This can help patients, for example those with leg swelling, by making the legs feel more comfortable, aid mobility and in some cases enable the patient to be able to wear shoes again.

As Lymphoedema is a chronic condition, treatment aims change from this initial phase, to maintaining long-term control of the swelling. Patients are therefore advised on how to self-manage their condition whilst still being offered support and monitoring on a less frequent basis. This involves working closely with patients to find out what they enjoy doing and how best their lifestyle can be supported.

The clinic helps people of all ages

Louise Gaston-Parry has worked in the Lymphoedema clinic for 5 years. She said “Lymphoedema impacts on people in different ways; not just physically, it can affect people’s jobs, social lives and body image. We see men and women of all ages. Our youngest patient was 19 and our eldest 93. As you can imagine their needs are very different and we do our best to tailor our care to each individual”.

Hospice also has a Lymphoedema Support Group

The Lymphoedema Support Group meets informally every three months at the hospice. The meetings include outside speakers covering relevant Lymphoedema topics, educational sessions from the Lymphoedema Nurses and social events.

If you would like to find out more about the Lymphoedema clinic at St Catherine’s please call the hospice on: 01293 447333.

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