In Quebec, it is estimated that approximately 70,000 men, women and children have some form of lymphedema; however, less than one percent of them are treated. Lymphedema is a poorly known condition that can arise as a complication of cancer treatment. This condition manifests as chronic swelling of a part of the body, often an arm or a leg. It can lead to social and occupational handicap, repeated infections and financial burden, since the physical treatments required for this condition, as well as the supportive garments, are not covered by Medicare. About 20%-25% of breast cancer survivors develop lymphedema after treatment. It often takes years to manifest, which makes it more difficult for health professionals to recognize.
Dr. Anna Towers is Director of the Palliative Care Division of the McGill University Health Centre, where she and a multidisciplinary team run a clinic for patients who suffer from cancer-related lymphedema. This is the only specialized medical clinic for lymphedema in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
"Many of these lymphedema sufferers wait years before they find a health professional that can recognize and diagnose their symptoms. There is little time dedicated to studying it in the medical curriculum," says Dr. Towers.
In order to raise awareness of lymphedema the McGill Choral Society and Women Making Music, two of our city's finest choirs, will be performing excerpts from Handel's Messiah in "Hope in a Song." The Choirs are generously donating the proceeds from this event to the Lymphedema Association of Quebec. The concert will be held on November 25 at 8 p.m. at Église Saint-Enfant-Jésus, 5037-39 St-Dominique. For ticket information contact the LAQ at 514-340-8222 ext. 5483 or visit the LAQ website.
About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)
The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University: the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.
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