Lymphoedema care of breast cancer patients in a breast care clinic: a survey of knowledge and health practice
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Lymphoedema, an accumulation of protein-rich fluid in interstitial tissue, is a well-recognised life-altering result of breast cancer treatment. With the goal of studying the prevalence and management of lymphoedema after breast cancer therapy, 171 patients were invited to complete a self-administered questionnaire following completion of treatment for breast cancer. The survey revealed that 82.5% of patients knew they were at risk of developing lymphoedema. However, the level of knowledge about preventive care in lymphoedema was inadequate, with a mean score of 4.07 out of a full mark of 10 (SD=2.35, mode=2). A substantial proportion (45.6%; n=78) of respondents reported that they had experienced lymphoedema and subsequently developed multiple sites of lymphoedema, but only 34.7% (n=26) had been referred for physiotherapy. The study also revealed that patients who had received the combined regimen of mastectomy, lymph node dissection, radiotherapy and chemotherapy were at a higher risk of developing lymphoedema (X 2=6.305, P=0.043). Interestingly, it was found that nurses were the most frequently cited resource for information, but the least consulted professionals for discussion on treatment. It is apparent from our patient survey that there is a lack of knowledge on lymphoedema care amongst breast cancer patients. In order to improve patients' level of knowledge and their awareness of lymphoedema care, the provision for systematic and comprehensive patient education, including management protocols for lymphoedema, needs to be addressed. Education and training, will be essential components of efforts to ensure appropriate care for lymphoedema patients.
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