Chateauguay woman fights lymphedema
March 15, 2008
Rachel Pritzker of Chateauguay contracted lymphedema as a side effect
of advanced melanoma cancer surgery and treatments two decades ago.
In 1999 she founded the non-profit Lymphedema Association of Quebec in
her basement, in an effort to inform the public about the condition
and to lend support to the 140,000 Quebecers who suffer from it.
For the unitiated, lymphedema is a chronic condition that millions of
people around the world suffer from. But partly because it is a little-
known disease, the Quebec Health Ministry refuses to recognize the
condition or help pay for treatments. There is no cure for the
affliction which causes limbs and other parts of the body to swell up.
In Pritzker's case, her left leg is 30% larger than her right leg, due
to the debilitating swelling and sometimes it develops infections.
"It's like carrying around a block of cement," she remarked. "The only
effective way for me to manage it, is to do therapeutic exercises
designed specifically for coping with this disease."
But since the government steadfastly refuses to recognize it,
treatment for the disease is not covered by Medicare (which pays for
it elsewhere in the world)and most Quebec patients cannot afford to
get it. Sadly, they are left on their own to cope with the painful
"We have therapists across the province (such as Dr. Anna Towers of
the McGill University Hospital Centre and therapist Nathalie Lavoie of
Mercier) and who are trained and qualified to treat lymphedema,"
Pritzker says, "but the treatment is available only in private clinics
and is very expensive. Patients also have to wear special compressive
garments at all times, and these are also costly." In her case alone,
expenses come to $5,000 a year.
Pritzker says there are essentially three types of lymphedema. The
most prevalent is the secondary type in which some 80-90% of the
victims are breast cancer survivors who contract the disease after the
lymphnodes are either traumatically removed or radiated.
Approximately 10% are congenital, which sees people born with big
limbs. In some cases, the swelling arises after the person quits
smoking and is often miosdiaqgnosed as obesity.
The third type is filiariasis, which comprises some 200 million cases
world-wide, but is mostly confined to Africa, India and Asia. This
variety is caused by mosquito larvae and can lead to elephantitis.
"In Quebec, only 1% of the victims actually get diagnosed because some
have lymphedema and don't even know it," Pritzker says.
Conferences are given four times a year with the next one scheduled
for Tuesday, April 8 from 7-9 p.m. at the Montreal General Hospital.
Pritzker has also set up a support phone line at 514.979.2463.
http://www.hebdos.net/lsc/edition122008 ... _id=202508
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For comprehensive information on lymphedema:
http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/wiki/do ... lymphedema
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