With the state election looming the Cancer Council has launched their Saving Life 2019: Election Priorities, calling on the next NSW Government to take action to further reduce the impact of cancer on the community.
Among the priority issues of the campaign is to increase the number of public lymphoedema services, ensure timely access to evidence-based care.
Western NSW resident, Susan Rootes was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and had to undergo surgery and radiation therapy. Shortly thereafter she developed lymphoedema - a chronic, incurable condition involving swelling of the limbs which occurs when lymph fluid, which transports immune cells, bacteria and viruses, can’t flow through the lymph vessels and nodes properly.
“I had never heard of lymphoedema, let alone the implications of living with it for life, when I was undergoing intensive treatment for my cancer so that I could still be here today. In hindsight, my treatment was delayed; despite seeing a variety of medical practitioners on a regular basis, it wasn’t addressed and didn’t come up in conversation,” she said.
Cancer Council NSW community programs coordinator Camilla Thompson said, “there is a shortage of public lymphoedema services across NSW. Timely access to lymphoedema services remains a problem in both rural and metropolitan regions”.
“Left untreated, lymphoedema can cause severe physical discomfort, emotional distress and social isolation to those affected. It can often also have significant financial implications for the patient and their family,” she said. “Government funding is urgently required to increase the number of public services for people with lymphoedema, so they can access the treatment they need when they need it.”
Mrs Rootes said she was referred to her local lymphoedema specialist in Dubbo, who works only part time, across a large geographical area.
“I was able to receive treatment which included bandaging, laser, daily massage and taping. But I could have been saved a lot of pain, discomfort and financial stress if I had received earlier intervention,” she said. “Seventeen years on, my lymphoedema is managed through regular lymphatic massage and wearing a compression sleeve 24/7. I would ideally love see our specialist more, but she is so busy looking after the hundreds of other patients around the district who need this specialist care.
“I cannot change the fact that I developed lymphoedema or that it was not treated earlier but if we can have sufficient specialists in our health district to assess and treat patients to prevent the condition from progressing it will be a step in the right direction – and it would cost the health system and community a whole lot less in the long run.”
- Community members can support the Saving Life 2019 campaign by signing an online postcard at canact.com.au