Lymphoedema Services Funding

Thank you for contacting me about lymphoedema and lipoedema services.

I welcome initiatives such as Lymphoedema Awareness Week. It is important to raise awareness of this condition, which primarily affects women, and presents many difficult symptoms. The swelling of limbs caused by lymphoedema and lipoedema can be distressing, and this condition must be properly addressed.

You may be aware that clinicians follow internationally recognised guidelines when it comes to the diagnosis, treatment and support of patients with lymphoedema, and the Royal College of General Practitioners offers an e-learning course to GPs, in order to improve doctors' understanding of it. I understand that between 75,000 and 220,000 people in England are affected by lymphoedema, and I hope that local health commissioners fund the most appropriate services for their populations.

There are a range of available interventions for lipoedema and lymphoedema, however a permanent cure has not yet been found. Low impact exercises like swimming or cycling are recommended, as well as massages and compression therapy. I understand that liposuction has seen positive results in recent years, however I am advised that several different operations may be required, and it is difficult to get NHS funding for liposuction, though this may vary across the country.

Roughly one in five people with lymphoedema of the arm contract it after breast cancer treatment. Much of the recent improvements in lymphoedema services have come following huge investment into cancer services, and the implementation of the new cancer strategy from 2015, which noted the importance of lymphoedema care. Furthermore, owing to over £1 billion total investment, the National Institute for Health Research is running three studies into lymphoedema, which will investigate the genetic component of this condition, and improve our understanding of its relation to breast cancer.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.