Crouse Health Online: Wellness is just a click away.
Share Share
  |  Connect with Us: 
large
med
small
Text Size
 

Health News



Weight-Lifting After Breast Cancer Won't Cause Lymphedema, Study Finds

Weight-Lifting After Breast Cancer Won't Cause Lymphedema, Study Finds

12/09/10

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to conventional wisdom, lifting weights doesn't cause breast cancer survivors to develop the painful, arm-swelling condition known as lymphedema, new research suggests.

There's a hint that weight-lifting might even help prevent lymphedema, but more research is needed to say that for sure, the researchers said.

Breast cancer-related lymphedema is caused by an accumulation of lymph fluid after surgical removal of the lymph nodes and/or radiation. It is a serious condition that may cause arm swelling, awkwardness and discomfort.

"Lymphedema is something women really fear after breast cancer, and the guidance has been not to lift anything heavier even than a purse," said Kathryn H. Schmitz, lead author of the study to be presented Wednesday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

"[But] to tell women to not use that affected arm without giving them a prescription for a personal valet is an absurdist principle," she added.

A previous study done by the same team of researchers found that exercise actually stabilized symptoms among women who already had lymphedema.

"We really wanted to put the last stamp on this to say, 'Hey, it is not only safe but may actually be good for their arms," said Schmitz, who is an associate professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a member of the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

"It's almost like a paradigm shift," said Lee Jones, scientific director of the Duke Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Survivorship in Durham, N.C. "Low-volume resistance training does not exacerbate lymphedema."

To see if a slowly progressive rehabilitation program using weights would help the arm, 134 breast cancer survivors with at least two lymph nodes removed but no sign of lymphedema who had been diagnosed one to five years before entry in the study were randomly selected to participate in one of two groups.

The first group involved light weight-lifting (starting at 1 to 2 pounds and slowly progressing) for 13 weeks under the guidance of a trainer at a local community fitness center (usually a YMCA). The women then practiced the exercises at home for another nine months.

The other group didn't exercise.

At the end of one year, 11 percent of women who lifted weights developed lymphedema, compared to 17 percent in the control group.

Among women who had undergone more drastic treatment (five or more lymph nodes removed), 7 percent of those who exercised developed lymphedema, versus 22 percent in the other group.

Although the study was designed mainly to look at the exercise program's safety, Schmitz said it was her "very strong position that it should be standard of care for breast cancer patients to be referred to a physical therapist for any of myriad arm and shoulder problems that happen after breast cancer, not just lymphedema."

"About half of survivors have arm or shoulder problems after treatment," she said.

But this study and the previous one shouldn't lead women to try the exercises on their own at home.

"There are some caveats," Jones said. "This study was in breast cancer patients who had [started] therapy [at least one year after treatment]. We don't know how the results of this might change based on women who have recently undergone surgery."

Also, "this is a really low level of resistance training," he added. "It's not where they're pushing the envelope. It's hard to know from this study what the critical threshold is. Is this resistance training [only] on the lighter side or can you go on to more moderate training?"

The study findings will also be reported in the Dec. 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More information

The American College of Sports Medicine has more on how exercise relates to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

OF INTEREST:
 

Latest News

Crouse First in Area to Perform Single-Site Hysterectomy
more >

MedEx Bedside Prescription Delivery Service

Free service offers convenience, patient education at discharge.
more >

CrouseSports Express After-Hours Ortho Care

Immediate care of orthopedic injuries in kids and adults.
more >

Weight Loss Surgery

Is it right for you? Attend a free information seminar held twice monthly.
more >

Quality at Crouse

See how Crouse Hospital strives to provide the best in patient care.
more >

Cheer Up That Special Someone

Say get well or welcome a new arrival with a gift purchased right at Crouse.

more >

Make an Online Donation Now

Your donation of any amount helps support Crouse services & programs in a meaningful way.
more >

Shop Online Now

Say get well, thinking of you or welcome new baby with a unique gift from the Crouse Gift Shop.

more >