A national awareness campaign has been launched to highlight lymphoedema, a chronic medical condition that affects an estimated 15,000 Irish people. The condition, which is caused by problems within the body’s lymphatic system, is incurable and can be life-threatening because of the risk of serious infections.
The awareness campaign, the first ever in Ireland, was launched at an open day in St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, by RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan. It is being organised by Lymphoedema Ireland, a patient group that is supported by the Irish Cancer Society and MLD Ireland, the organisation of health professionals who provide treatment for lymphoedema patients.
Awareness of the condition, the risk factors and the treatment options is low among those who are most at risk, according to the Lymphoedema Ireland. Lymphoedema patients fall into two groups, those who suffer from:
- Primary lymphoedema, which is usually caused by congenital or genetic abnormalities. Around 1 in 6,000 are born with primary lymphoedema each year
- Secondary lymphoedema, which is often caused by damage to the lymphatic system due to radiotherapy, advanced cancers, infections and other conditions. The number of secondary lymphoedema patients in Ireland is estimated at close on 10,500.
“Early treatment and appropriate support and education are critical and can mean that lymphoedema doesn’t have to a have devastating effect on an individual’s quality of life” says Nina Murray, Chairperson of Lymphoedema Ireland. “But without such treatment and support, lymphoedema can become life threatening.”
Donal Buggy, Head of Services at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Lymphoedema can be managed but it is important that people are aware of the symptoms so they can get the necessary medical support. Cancer survivors do have a higher risk of developing Lymphoedema. Any survivors who may be concerned can call into our Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide or call the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700 to speak to a specialist cancer nurse who can offer information and support.”
This is the first time that Ireland is marking what is internationally known as Lymphoedema Awareness Month. Apart from the open day, where patients and health professionals are exchanging their experiences and learning about treatment options, a range of other awareness activities are planned including:
- A hospitals event on March 6, where information stands will be manned by lymphoedema specialists and patients living with the condition
- Awareness activities in Daffodil Centres and other facilities run by the Irish Cancer Society, where trained nurses and staff can provide information on lymphoedema
- A media campaign across print, broadcast and social media channels