By Janet Vanderveen on behalf of the Lymphedema Association of Ontario
The goal of World Lymphedema Day is to make cures for lymphedema and lymphatic diseases a global priority. It is an annual awareness event with participation in many countries around the world. The Lymphedema Association of Ontario (LAO) has committed to improving the lives of people living with lymphedema since it began in 1996 and has become a more dynamic organization in the last year. World Lymphedema Day offers us an opportunity to continue our advocacy and awareness work. LAO partners with hospitals, our professional members, and patients to bring attention to lymphedema in Ontario.
Lymphedema is a side effect that can occur from cancer treatment when the lymphatic tissues are damaged or have to be removed, usually due to radiation and/or surgery. The lymphatic system becomes compromised and lymph fluid collects in tissues causing swelling, aching and heaviness. It is a lifelong condition with no cure or medication to address it. It is estimated that one million Canadians have lymphedema, including over 388,000 people in Ontario, of those, over 20,000 are breast cancer patients with secondary lymphedema as a result of breast cancer treatment. The Ontario Health coverage for treatment of lymphedema is minimal and takes place in a small number of hospitals and LAO is working to change that. We recognize that many people in Ontario with lymphedema cannot afford manual lymphatic drainage from a trained professional, a treatment required to control lymphedema. Provincial healthcare does not cover the expense and many private insurance companies offer limited coverage. Without treatment, the consequences can be dire. Once we realized that many cannot afford lymphedema treatment, we fundraised to start a Compassion Fund. The mission of the Compassion Fund is to provide financial assistance for lymphedema patients who cannot afford the necessary treatments so that patients can work with an LAO professional therapist to assess their condition and learn how to manage and care for their lymphedema.
Learn more about the Compassion Fund by visiting the Lymphedema Association of Ontario website.