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Lymphoedema Awareness Week 5 – 11 March 2017

Earl Mountbatten Hospice is taking the opportunity, during National Lymphoedema Awareness Week (5 to 11 March 2017), to highlight that the Isle of Wight’s Lymphoedema Service is available to anyone who has a GP.
 
The service is based at the hospice and provides outpatient clinics for people with lymphoedema. The condition is not limited to people with cancer: for example, some people are born with lymphoedema and some may develop it later in life due to infection or surgery.
 
Lymphoedema is a condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissue, normally in the arms and legs, and is caused by a faulty lymphatic system. The lymphatic system should drain excess fluid from the tissues, but if it is disrupted or damaged, it can lose this ability and any excess fluid will cause the tissue to swell. It is a condition that cannot usually be cured, but can be treated effectively with careful skin care, compression garments, exercise and a specialised form of massage.
 
The Isle of Wight’s lead Lymphoedema Nurse knows only too well how the condition can affect people. Heather Nelson, Lymphoedema Nurse Practitioner, was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer in 2011 and underwent a hysterectomy. A year later, she started to develop swelling in her left ankle and leg. Heather, who was a practice nurse at the time, said: “I didn’t know what it was, but after some investigation discovered that it was lymphoedema. I’d not knowingly nursed anyone with it before. I ignored it for a little while, but realised as it started to creep up and up that I should get it seen to.”
 
Heather was referred to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice based service, which she now leads having gained extra qualifications in lymphoedema and its treatment. Having the condition herself is helpful for patients, according to Heather: “It’s really very beneficial. Some patients notice that I also have the condition and, if they ask, I am quite happy to discuss my own symptoms and treatments with them. It actually opens up a two-way conversation with patients, and they will offer up ideas and suggestions that they may have heard of, so it works really well.”
 
Heather is keen to dispel the myth that they only treat people with cancer: “Even though we’re based at the hospice, we are open to all patients; we take referrals from GPs, hospital consultants, and private practitioners. At the moment, the team sees around 250 patients, but there may be other people in the community who would benefit from our care.”
 
There are three members of the Lymphoedema Service team and they are available five days a week between 8:30am and 4:30pm. As well as a range of treatment, the team runs an exercise group called Lymphosize, which provides individual exercise plans for people to help manage their own condition. There is also a regular support group where patients and carers can access information and support.
 
The team will be increasing awareness of the Isle of Wight Lymphoedema Service with the launch of a new leaflet, and a stand promoting the service at the entrance to St Mary’s Hospital on Monday 6 March. Anyone is welcome to meet the team and discuss any concerns they may have about the condition, or contact the team by phoning (01983) 217366 or email heather.nelson@iow.nhs.uk
 
28/02/2017

"They look after you and they're so caring. I'm not frightened of dying."

 

Chrissie Fenton, patient