Day and night, breast cancer survivor Susan Rootes must wear a tight compression sleeve on her swollen arm to deal with a chronic, incurable health condition.
In the wake of surgery and radiation therapy in 2001 the Dubbo woman developed lymphoedema, which advanced before she was able to receive intervention.
This year the grandmother is adding her voice to a Cancer Council campaign calling on the party that wins government at the March election to increase the number of public lymphoedema services and ensure timely access to care.
The charity reports there is a shortage of the services across the state.
Mrs Rootes believes more resources could prevent the condition from progressing further in patients of the future and ultimately lead to savings in the health system.
Lymphoedema involves swelling of the limbs and occurs when lymph fluid, which transports immune cells, bacteria and viruses, can’t flow through the lymph vessels and nodes properly.
The retired teacher said in hindsight her lymphoedema 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.
Finally referred to a local lymphoedema specialist, treatment including bandaging, laser, daily massage and taping started.
“But I could have been saved a lot of pain, discomfort and financial stress if I had received earlier intervention,” Mrs Rootes said.
“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.”
Cancer Council NSW community programs coordinator Camilla Thompson said timely access to lymphoedema services remained a problem in both rural and metropolitan regions.
“Left untreated, lymphoedema can cause severe physical discomfort, emotional distress and social isolation to those affected,” she said.
“It can often also have significant financial implications for the patient and their family.
“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.”
Community members can support the Saving Life 2019 campaign by signing an online postcard at canact.com.au
It also calls for the next government to ban tobacco vending machines and remove junk food advertising from state-owned property.