Lymphoedema is the regional accumulation of excessive amounts of protein rich fluid in body tissue causing swelling. It occurs when the demand for lymphatic drainage exceeds the capacity of the lymphatic circulation. The condition usually affects the limbs although it can also involve the trunk, breast, head and neck, or genital area. Secondary lymphoedema occurs as a result of removal or damage of lymph nodes and vessels during surgery or radiotherapy and may present at any time following treatment.56
The incidence of secondary lymphoedema associated with vulval cancer is estimated at 36-47%, breast cancer 20%, cervical cancer 24% and melanoma 9-29%.56 Lower incidence rates are often associated with minimally invasive procedures such as sentinel node biopsy.
Access the following resources and complete the learning activities:
- Lymphoedema. Cancer Australia, 2012
- Lymphedema PDQ. National Cancer Institute, 2014
- Understanding Lymphedema (for cancers other than breast cancer). American Cancer Society, 2014
Identify risk factors associated with development of secondary lymphoedema.
Develop an education session for a person at risk of lymphoedema who has been recently discharged post-surgery.
Identify your local referral pathways for a woman 12 months post-treatment for vulval cancer who presents with right-sided leg oedema.