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Specialist Care & Treatment

International Lymphoedema Awareness “D” Day: 6 March

International Lymphoedema Awareness “D” Day: 6 March

Each year, on March 6, the lymphoedema community nationwide celebrate Lymphoedema Awareness “D” Day, a special day set aside to honour
inspirational lymphoedema patients: those who have contributed to the community or who have shown great courage in their struggle with disease.

On this day, we raise our voices together and say: “This is it! We demand treatment, coverage and support for this condition.” said the National Lymphoedema Network in the USA.

CANSA plays a leading role in the treatment of Lymphoedema

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) is taking the lead in SA in this regard, encouraging all women to invest in their health. ”We would like to raise awareness of this challenging complication of cancer treatment, causing swelling mostly of the arms and legs from damaged lymph nodes. Our aim is to provide clinics countrywide to address the acute shortage of lymphoedema services,” says Sue Janse van Rensburg, CANSA’s CEO.

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a chronic and debilitating condition/complication that develops due to an insufficient or non-functioning lymphatic system and
results in an accumulation of protein rich fluid in an affected body part.

The signs of lymphoedema are normally swelling of the limbs or other affected body parts.  Lymphoedema may also result in severe physiological and psychological morbidity.

There are two types of lymphoedema, primary and secondary. Primary lymphoedema is congenital which is related to an insufficient lymphatic system. Secondary lymphoedema is commonly associated with surgery, or cancer treatment e.g. surgery/radiotherapy.

Lymphoedema sufferers often don’t receive the necessary support

The findings of a recent study, conducted last 2008 in Cape Town amongst 56 patients from eight St. Luke’s Day Care Centres, indicate that 41% of the research participants experienced lymphoedema. Although the sample size of this study is small, the number who reported symptoms of lymphoedema is significant.

The most concerning part of the study is that all of the participants who reported symptoms of lymphoedema indicated that they received no support in the form of education or treatment from the medical teams treating their cancer.

CANSA’s Lymphoedema service to the public

The fact that cancer survivors are at risk of experiencing lymphoedema and have no support from the health system serves as an ideal opportunity for CANSA, which is the largest non-governmental cancer organization in South Africa, to provide a lymphoedema treatment service to those who are economically and socially challenged. CANSA identified this need in 2009 and trained 32 registered nurses regarding lymphoedema treatment. The Organisation has lymphoedema clinics in several bigger cities in all provinces.

The goal of this programme is to provide an affordable comprehensive lymphoedema service for cancer patients and survivors by establishing clinics within the CANSA structure to assess and treat patients.

The objectives are:

  • To provide information to patients and their families about the condition
  • To assess patients with acute conditions
  • To work out an individual management plan for each patient
  • To provide the necessary medical consumables to patients at a reasonable price/lowest price it can be procured for in the market
  • To transfer skills to carers so that they can maintain the plateau status of the condition post acute treatment

Queries CANSA

If you are a sufferer of lymphoedema or know someone with the complication, contact CANSA’s toll free number 0800 22 66 22 for more information regarding your nearest clinic.


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