MUH – Pioneers in cancer research and leaders in the field of lymphoedema management

MUH – Pioneers in cancer research and leaders in the field of lymphoedema management

A cancer diagnosis is a frightening and life- altering event, yet with one in three Australians living with the disease, it is one that touches a significant part of the population.

For those diagnosed, it is vital they can trust and feel confident they have the best health professionals on their case and will receive the latest and most effective treatment. As the first private teaching hospital in the country to be co-located on a university campus, Macquarie University Hospital uniquely combines resources and research, enabling it to attract world-class specialists. The hospital also has access to highly sophisticated medical technology and equipment for use in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“Macquarie’s Cancer Program is striving to be the very best – by getting the best staff, doing the best research and providing the best care for patients,” says Professor Rick Kefford, Head of Department, Clinical Medicine and Head, Cancer Clinical Program. “We want our patients to be treated the way we would expect to be treated if the roles were reversed – with compassion, dignity and respect.” The hospital’s ground-breaking research is made possible by donations from corporate sponsors and members of the community. “With such a high incidence of cancer in our society, people donate to cancer research because they have been personally touched by it,” says Professor Kefford.

Grants also allow the hospital to run other highly specialised programs such as ALERT – the Australian Lymphoedema Education, Research and Treatment study. The multidisciplinary ALERT program provides up-to-date information and education for lymphoedema patients, their families and health professionals. It undertakes research into the causes of lymphoedema and develops strategies to manage and treat the condition, which causes large amounts of fluid to pool in parts of the body, leading to painful swelling, infection and other difficulties for patients.

ALERT also improves patients’ lives. “Lymphoedema patients are desperate,” says Professor John Boyages, head of ALERT. “They’ve had their disease treated and they are now suffering. At MQ Health, we’ve created a centred culture that is about individual, personalised care. We’re interested in healing, learning and discovering. “There are stories out there of pain and despair – we need to get to the bottom of this disease. We need to find how we can prevent it and how we can cure it”. Anna, a sufferer of lymphoma, developed the condition after she had her lymph nodes removed during treatment for cancer. After living with the debilitating swelling that lymphoma sufferers experience, Anna came to the program in the hope she could find some relief. She took part in a revolutionary liposuction treatment that was pioneered in Sweden and brought to Australia by Dr Helen Mackie, a consultant who works for the program at Macquarie University Hospital.

Anna had the surgery and hasn’t looked back. “It’s been an honour to be involved with the surgery and to be part of the environment at MQ Health. “They are world-class,” she says. “When I could go and buy a pair of boots again, I felt like I had won the lottery.” This work has been expanded thanks to the generous donations from sponsors BSN Medical and Haddenham Healthcare. These grants, and other donations to the University, are proven to help patients by providing funds for research, technology, education and support. “I can’t think of a better thing that you could do with your money, or a better thing to invest in than medical research,” says Professor Kefford. “Five years ago, I would have said ‘no, there is no possibility that we can beat cancer’. I now believe that it is absolutely possible. It requires all of us working together, as a community, to ensure that the people we love and who are in our care, don’t die from this disease.”

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