Approximately 20% of people diagnosed with breast cancer will develop lymphoedema
Petrina Burnett is a women’s health physiotherapist who specialises in treating women with breast and gynaecologic cancers. Petrina was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 31 and is a BCNA member and Consumer Representative
How do I find a lymphoedema therapist?
Many breast oncology teams include lymphoedema and breast physiotherapists or occupational therapists (OTs), so talk to a member of your treating team about whether one is available to you.
The Australasian Lymphoedema Association (ALA) has a National Lymphoedema Practitioners Register (NLPR), which lists accredited lymphoedema therapists (physiotherapists, OTs, nurses and massage therapists) who have completed post-graduate training and who maintain regular continuing education. Visit lymphoedema.org.au.
Can I get a rebate for lymphoedema treatment?
Most private health insurance policies provide a rebate for lymphoedema treatment.
However, it is a good idea to contact your fund to ask about your level of cover as these can vary. A GP referral isn’t necessary, but is preferred by some lymphoedema practitioners.
A Medicare rebate may also be available if you have a Chronic Disease Management plan drawn up for you by your GP. This plan covers up to five appointments with allied health professionals per calendar year. Your GP will liaise with the lymphoedema therapist (who must be a physiotherapist or OT) about your care.
How much do lymphoedema therapists charge?
Charges vary and are usually based on the therapist’s level of experience, qualifications, location and the length of the appointment. Some practices have additional equipment for assessment, such as bio-impedance analysers, and treatments such as intermittent compression pumps and laser. It is advisable to ask about the cost upfront. There is usually a gap payment you will have to pay.
If you have an Enhanced Primary Care plan and can claim your treatment through Medicare, there is a rebate of about $53. If you reach the Medicare safety net, the gap charges can reduce considerably.
Can I get a rebate for compression garments and bandages?
Most private health insurance policies provide a rebate for compression garments. However, the amounts vary from about $200 to $400 per calendar year. There can also be out-of-pocket costs for bandaging and other lymph materials such as mobiderm and taping.
Medicare does not cover any garments or materials.
Some state governments have programs that subsidise the cost of garments, such as the State-wide Equipment Program in Victoria. Talk to your lymphoedema therapist about whether your state/territory has a program you may be eligible for.
What is being done to improve services?
Unfortunately, lymphoedema funding and access to services is very limited. BCNA is working closely with lymphoedema action groups around the country o try to change this.
For more information, read BCNA’s lymphoedema fact sheet at bcna.org.au
Petrina Burnett Research and Consumer Advocate Contributions
2013 Ovarian cancer patient’s exercise experiences and perceptions: A qualitative study. Curtin University. Ms. P. Burnett, Dr D. Gucciardi, Assoc. Prof K. Briffa.
2017 King, M., Winters, Z., Olivotto, I., Spillane, A., Chua, B., Saunders, C., Westenberg, A., Mann, G., Burnett, P., Butow, P., Rutherford, C. 2017, 'Patient-reported outcomes in ductal carcinoma in situ: A systematic review', European Journal of Cancer, 71, pp. 95-108.
2013 Assoc. Prof. Prue Francis, Assoc. Prof Nicholas Wilcken, Dr Nicholas Murray, Prof John Forbes, Assoc. Prof. Andrew Redfern, Prof. Frances Boyle & Assoc. Prof. Andrew Spillane. ELIMINATE (Estrogen Lowering Intervention May Increase NeoAdjuvant Therapy Efficacy). A randomized phase II trial of neoadjuvant chemotherapy +/- concurrent aromatase inhibitor endocrine therapy to down-stage large oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.
Grant Application Consumer Support
2016 Dr Hilary Martin, Assoc. Prof. Andrew Redfern & Assoc. Prof. Jennifer Stone. Predicting breast cancer recurrence and survival for breast cancer focusing on changes in appearance of the breast tissue on mammogram and medications usage following surgery for patients with breast cancer treated with the aim of cure.
2014 Prof. Robin Anderson, Dr Andrew Redfern, Dr Ian Street. 'Activation of BMP4 Signaling to Inhibit Breast Cancer Metastasis', La Trobe University ex NHMRC Project Grants.
2014 Dr Donna Taylor, Prof. Christobel Saunders, Dr Anita Bourke, Assoc. Prof. Rachael Moorin, 2014. 'Can ROLLIS (Radioguided Occult Lesion Localisation using Iodine 125 Seeds) Reduce Relative Re-excision Rates for impalpable breast cancer? The five "R"'s Randomised Clinical Trial', Cancer Council of Western Australia
2013 Dr Brendan Kennedy, Prof. Christobel Saunders, Dr Lixin Chin 2017, 'Micro-elastography: A new surgical tool to reduce the number of re-excision breast cancer surgeries', Cancer Council of Western Australia
Steering Committee and Advisory Group Memberships
2014 Principal Investigator; Assoc. Prof Boon Chua. BIG 3-07. A randomized phase III study of radiation doses and fractionation schedules in non-low risk Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) of the breast.
2013 Prof E. Sullivan, Prof C. Saunders, Prof J. Dickinson, Dr A. Ives, Dr L. Halliday, Assoc. Prof. F. Boyle, Ms N. Rose-Humphreys & Dr G. Duncombe. Gestational Breast Cancer in Australia and New Zealand: A population study. (Australasian Maternal Outcomes Surveillance System).
Cochrane Consumer Advocate Reviews
2018 Markkula SP, Leung N, Allen VB, Furniss D. Surgical interventions for the prevention or treatment of lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 12. (Protocol First Published).
2012 Wagner A.D. et al. Vascular-endothelial-growth-factor (VEGF) targeting therapies for endocrine refractory or resistant metastatic breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.