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Coping with lymphoedema

Lymphoedema can affect your body and mind, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Having lymphoedema can affect how you feel about yourself (self-esteem) in several ways, including:

Body image – You may feel self-conscious about the swelling and how you look. Or you may have trouble finding suitable clothes and footwear, which can also affect how you feel about yourself.

Sexuality and intimacy – You may lose interest in sex, or you may feel that any visible changes make you less attractive and worry others will reject you.

Anxiety and depression – You may feel overwhelmed by the ongoing treatment and by the permanent reminder of having had cancer.

Social isolation – You may avoid work and social activities because of concern about how you look or because you find it difficult to move around.

Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes. You may experience a variety of emotions, including anger, anxiety and resentment. Everyone has their own way of coping with their emotions. Some people find it helpful to talk with family and friends, while others seek professional help from a counsellor or psychologist. You may find it helpful to join a support group to talk with other people who are dealing with lymphoedema.

Download our booklet ‘Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer’

Download our booklet ‘Emotions and Cancer’

Featured resource

Understanding Lymphoedema

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed September 2023 by the following expert content reviewers: health professionals and people affected by lymphoedema. It was reviewed by: A/Prof Louise Koelmeyer, Director, Australian Lymphoedema Education, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Program, and Associate Professor, Macquarie University, NSW; Prof John Boyages AM, Founding Director and Honorary Professor at the ALERT Program, Macquarie University, NSW; Dr Nicola Fearn, Occupational Therapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Therapist, The Lymphoedema Clinic Wollongong, and Senior Research Officer, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Jennifer Gilbert, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Lymphoedema, Icon Cancer Centre, Chermside, QLD; Megan Howard, Senior Physiotherapist and Lymphoedema Physiotherapist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Amanda Pigott, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapy, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Prof Neil Piller, Director, Lymphoedema.

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