Chronic oedema/lymphoedema: under-recognised and under-treated


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Abstract

Even though it is estimated that at least 300 000 people in Canada may be affected by chronic oedema/lymphoedema, recognition of the seriousness of this chronic disease in health care is scarce. Lymphoedema affects up to 70% of breast and prostate cancer patients, substantially increasing their postoperative medical costs. Adding to this problem are the escalating rates of morbid obesity across North America and the fact that 80% of these individuals are thought to suffer with an element of lymphoedema. The costs related to these patient populations and their consumption of health care resources are alarming. Untreated chronic oedema/lymphoedema is progressive and leads to infection, disfigurement, disability and in some cases even death. Thus, prognosis for the patient is far worse and treatment is more costly when the disease is not identified and treated in the earlier stages. Although the number of individuals coping with chronic oedema/lymphoedema continues to increase, the disparity between diagnosis, treatment and funding across Canada endures. The reasons for this include a lack of public awareness of the condition, insufficient education and knowledge among health care providers regarding aetiology and management and limited financial coverage to support appropriate methods and materials.

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