The lymphatic system is a network of channels and glands that fights infection and removes excess fluid. Lymphoedema (pronounced lim-fo-dee-ma) is a long-term condition that develops when the lymphatic system doesn’t work properly, causing swelling in the body’s tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but most commonly the arms and legs.
Lymphoedema is thought to affect around 200,000 people in the UK and is more common in those living with cancer. For some, lymphoedema can be due to cancer causing changes in the lymphatic system. In others, cancer treatments – such as surgery or radiotherapy – to the lymph nodes can cause lymphoedema.
Lymphoedema can be emotionally and psychologically debilitating and finding the right care and support to manage it can be difficult. To help, we provide specialist lymphatic massage at our Chandler’s Ford and Waterside Cancer Support Centres. It’s really important that clients receive the most up-to-date help, advice and treatment for lymphoedema and our treatment is non-invasive and suitable for most people.
Michele Gibson is a complementary therapist and reflexologist for Wessex Cancer Trust. She says the charity is rare in providing free and hands-on lymphoedema massage, with many people normally having to rely on their own self-care, which can be daunting:
“Lymphoedema massage is a gentle way of encouraging lymph fluid to move away from the swollen area so it can drain normally. It also helps lymph fluid drain through the healthy lymph vessels. As well as reducing and controlling swelling, it can prevent infection, improve your sleep and generally help you to feel much better. The key to lymphatic massage is consistency, so it’s been lovely welcoming back clients for this treatment and to know they’re getting it regularly, rather than having to do it themselves. My clients have told me they’re relieved to be back and I know they find the treatment supportive and relaxing. I understand the emotional and physical effects of cancer and this condition, and I think it really helps people feel supported by someone they can trust. They don’t feel that they have to carry this condition all by themselves, which I know is reassuring. Ultimately, our aim is to encourage our clients to manage the condition themselves by carrying out their own simple massages, but those one-to-one sessions at the beginning really do help to get in the mindset and build confidence.”
One client who had several hard lumps of lymph up her arm said the lumps had totally reduced after five weeks of treatment.
Michele can also support you if you don’t want to touch the affected area, by building gentle massage into a shower routine so it doesn’t feel like it’s something you have to do separately.
As well as providing hands-on lymphoedema massage, here are some self-care videos to help you manage this condition.
For specific lymphoedema support, you can click here or you can call 01962 658170 or email email@example.com.