Lymphoedema is a swelling of part of the body. After treatment for vulvar cancer, lymphoedema usually affects a leg or the genitals. Sometimes, the swelling can take months or years to develop. The risk of damage to the lymph nodes or vessels increases for people who have both radiation therapy and surgery, but some people who are at risk never develop lymphoedema. Although it may be permanent, lymphoedema can usually be managed. Talk to a lymphoedema professional about tailoring a treatment plan for you.
For more on this, see our general section on Lymphoedema.
Tips for managing lymphoedema
- Look for signs of lymphoedema and see a lymphoedema practitioner as soon as they appear. Early treatment avoids symptoms becoming worse.
- Visit the Australasian Lymphology Association to find a lymphoedema practitioner or ask your doctor for a referral. Ask your GP if you are eligible for a Medicare rebate for sessions with a lymphoedema practitioner.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Keep your skin clean and moisturised. Clip and care for your toenails.
- Avoid cuts, scratches, burns, insect bites, sunburn and injections in your legs.
- Wear a professionally fitted compression garment, if advised by your lymphoedema practitioner. For details about compression garment schemes visit the Australasian Lymphology Association.
- Do leg exercises to move fluid out of the affected area and into other lymph channels.
- If your legs or genitals are red, swollen or hot, let your doctor or nurse know as soon as possible.
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A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jane Conroy-Wright, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Suparna Karpe, Clinical Psychologist, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Sally McCoull, Consumer; A/Prof Orla McNally, Gynaecological Oncologist and Director, Oncology/Dysplasia, The Royal Women’s Hospital, and Director, Gynaecology Tumour Stream,Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Haley McNamara, Social Worker and Project Manager, Care at End of Life Project, Queensland Health, QLD; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician – Physiotherapy, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.
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