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Lymphoedema After Cancer

Lymphoedema After Cancer

If you have developed lymphoedema after being treated for cancer, you will understandably want to know more about the condition. To help you find the information you are looking for, this article looks at lymphoedema in detail, exploring how it is caused, if it can be prevented, and whether or not medical professionals can be held responsible for your condition.

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a long-term condition in which damaged lymph nodes causes the body's tissue to swell. This can be suffered from birth due to a genetic condition, an illness which is called primary lymphoedema.

What we are particularly interested in, however, is secondary lymphoedema. This happens when damage or disruption to lymph nodes reduces the function of the lymph system. This can be the result of infection, injury or trauma.

However, most commonly secondary lymphoedema will develop as a side effect of cancer treatment especially breast cancer treatment. This happens because if cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, it may be necessary for a patient to have the nodes removed, or to receive radiotherapy treatment. Both of these will harm the lymph system, reducing its ability to drain fluid from the body's tissue. In turn this will cause excess fluid to build up, leaving the site to swell. Often this swelling will occur in the legs and arms, although it can also affect the chest, head and genitals.

Lymphoedema will leave a patient to experience the following symptoms:-

  • Swelling in limb (or other site);
  • A heavy and achy limb;
  • Loss of mobility in limb;
  • Skin infections;
  • Painful joints.

Can Lymphoedema Be Prevented?

Lymphoedema after cancer treatment is not a forgone conclusion. Indeed, it may be possible to prevent lymphoedema occurring at all. Medical professionals should give you simple steps to follow to help prevent the condition. This may include:-

  • Maintaining good skin care eg. moisturising skin and preventing athlete's foot;
  • Trying to avoid cuts and scratches;
  • Treating cuts and scratches with antiseptic cream immediately;
  • Wearing supportive and correct-fitting shoes;
  • Not wearing tight-fitting clothes or jewellery;
  • Avoiding hot baths or anything that may increase swelling;
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle;
  • Not having injections, blood pressure readings or blood tests in affected area.

Can Lymphoedema Be Caused By Medical Negligence?

Of the list above, medical professionals need to remain particularly vigilant of the last point: not to give a patient whose is at risk of developing lymphoedema injections, blood tests or blood pressure checks at the site of node damage. For example, if a breast cancer patient has had a lymph node resection on her left-hand side, doctors should never apply a cuff, tourniquet or insert a needle into her left arm.

If a doctor is aware a patient has had nodes removed, other reasonable alternatives should be sought. This may include taking blood from the hand, the other arm, or sending the patient to a more expert phlebotomist. However, if a doctor who is informed of a patient's condition ignores this advice, he/she could cause a patient to develop lymphoedema (or cause a pre-existing lymphoedema condition to deteriorate). In such an event, it could be possible for a patient to pursue a medical negligence claim.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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