Lymphoedema Service

Treatment and education for patients with primary or secondary lymphoedema with emphasis on best management and encouraging the patient to take on-going control of their condition.

Patient on bed with bandaged leg, in clinic room

Megan is now 13 and attends the clinic every six months, for treatment on her right leg. Her condition first flared up when she was 6 weeks old and woke up one morning with a swollen leg.  

Megan a Lymphoedema patient at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

Chronic long term swelling  

Between 80,000 and 124,000 people in the UK are affected by the chronic long term swelling which occurs when the lymphatic system fails either due to a genetic fault (primary lymphoedema) or through damage following infection, severe injury, deep vein thrombosis or treatment such as radiotherapy or surgery for cancer (secondary lymphoedema). Secondary lymphoedema can also occur when blood vessels are not working properly or where a patient has reduced movement, paralysis or muscle weakness.  

Lipoedema is a chronic condition that makes fat accumulate below the waist, often giving you hips, buttocks and legs that are out of proportion with the upper body. The team can provide an initial assessment and education, in these cases, so patients can be quickly discharged to self-manage their condition.  Find out more at Lipoedema UK’s website

Lymphoedema is a condition which cannot be cured, but with appropriate treatment it can be controlled and often significantly improved. 

Initial assessment  

Before any treatment can take place, the lymphoedema team will give you an initial assessment lasting 60-90 minutes.  They will diagnose your condition, after a thorough assessment including a physical examination and a review of your full medical history.  They will then explain the most likely cause of your swelling. Treatment options will then be discussed.  

Everyone who lives with lymphoedema is different and treatment will be unique to each individualEmphasis is on education and self-management once you have been given the tools to manage your condition.  

Treatment and enabling self-management  

Management may include compression hosiery, exercise, self-lymphatic drainage, skin care, kinesio tape, low level light therapy or the use of a compression pump. All management programmes are tailored to the individual, it may not be appropriate to offer you all of these interventions. 

Some patients require an initial two to three week programme, of short stretch bandaging or compression wraps and manual lymphatic drainage (specialist massage). 

Patients with cellulitis are more at risk of developing infections (cellulitis) of their affected limb, guidance on cellulitis can be found at lymphoedema.org 

Our clinical specialists have recently updated their Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Training and now practise Fluroscopy Guided MLD. This is a form of specialist massage; however, we are only able to offer this to patients with truncal oedema, not limb oedema alone. 

Once a patient’s lymphoedema is managed and stable they are discharged to self-manage in the community. Advice and supporting literature are provided, together with guidance about how to manage the condition and avoid the risk of infection.  

Education sessions for healthcare professionals  

Our clinical specialists provide education sessions on lymphoedema management for GPs, nurses, care home staff, doctors, medical students and other healthcare professionals.  

They also work closely with oncology teams at Addenbrooke’s Hospital so that people can be referred to our clinic.   

The impact of COVID-19  

We have reintroduced some face-to-face appointments at the Hospice which is COVID-secure, where there is a clinical need. 

However, where appropriate support is primarily being provided through video and telephone appointments, calls and sessions. 

I am so pleased as I can now get my wellies on and zip them up, so I can carry out my hobby. No one could offer me anything, so I am very happy.

January 2021

FAQ's

How many people are cared for by the Lymphoedema team?

The team saw 441 people between April 2019 and March 2020.

During the pandemic, the team has continued to support all the patients already under our care through virtual methods. Where there is a clinical need, patients can be seen face to face at the Hospice, which is COVID-secure.

Many consultations continue to be carried out virtually via telephone call, or video-callif patients are able to do this. 

New referrals are also being accepted.

You can find out more at from the British Lymphology Society and the Lymphoedema Support Network by visiting their websites (click on each to be directed to these). 

Whilst under the care of the lymphoedema service, your hosiery will be provided via the lymphoedema team (2 sets every 6- months).

On discharge, a company called Patient Choice is used to obtain your ongoing hosiery- don’t worry about this, the team will clearly explain this to you once the time comes. 

You will receive a text reminder 5 working days before your appointment (if you have consented to text reminders).   

If you are unable to attend this appointment, please let us know by calling 01223 675765.  Where possible it would be appreciated if you could contact us in advance, as there is often a waiting list and another patient will be able to use the appointment

It is an outpatient clinic situated in the Bradbury Wellness Centre, which is on the first floor of our Hospice based in Shelford Bottom.  

We encourage patients to organise their own transport.  If you require hospital transport, you will need to arrange this yourself via 03456038117 (if hospital transport). Or there may be community transport in your area.  

 Currently, the team is supporting patients remotely, further to the latest government guidance on the coronavirus pandemic.   

Our Lymphoedema service provides care and treatment to patients whose GP is based in the following areas: Cambridge City, Cambridge South, East Cambs (including Burwell, Cathedral, Haddenham, Priors Field, St George’s, St Mary’s and Staploe) Royston under the Cambridge catchment (Barley, Roysia, Royston Health Centre  and Orchard). 

Any healthcare professional can refer you, provided you give them permission. We do not accept self-referrals, so please speak to your GP.   For further information, please call the team on 01223 675765.

Referrals will come into our central referral’s office. These will then be triaged by a senior lymphoedema clinician and placed on a waiting list according to urgency. You will subsequently be informed via letter as to when your appointment will take place. Once again please call 01223 675765 if this isn’t convenient. 

Thanks to the dedication, commitment and generosity of the local community and the hard work of our senior leadership team to secure vital contracts with the NHSall our services are free of charge.     

It will cost £10.5 millionthis financial year to operate our services. We have currently secured £6.98 million from the NHS. meaning that £3.52 million needs to be raised through donationsfundraising activities and trading.  

We are extremely grateful to our local community for the continual dedication, commitment and generosity they show in supporting us to meet this target.

Tracy Hancock, team lead

Tracy Hancock, Team lead & Clinical Specialist

Tracy has worked at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity for over 20 years and has a wealth of experience and expertise. She enjoys helping patients to feel less anxious and says the key is educating them to become experts in managing their condition themselves