In the journals: Weight lifting eases lymphedema symptoms in breast cancer survivors

In the journals

Weight lifting eases lymphedema symptoms in breast cancer survivors

One of the most common and most troublesome consequences of breast cancer treatment is lymphedema — fluid accumulation and tissue swelling from damage to the lymph drainage system. The condition often develops after lymph node biopsy and radiation therapy affecting the armpit. Symptoms include swelling, discomfort, and a heightened susceptibility to infection in the associated arm. Breast cancer survivors have long been advised to go easy on the arm, and in particular, to avoid heavy lifting and resistance-training exercise. As a result, women with lymphedema often favor the opposite arm, or forgo upper-body exercise, and the arm becomes progressively weaker.

Now a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Aug. 13, 2009) has turned conventional wisdom on its head. The report, which is based on the largest clinical trial of its kind, indicates that graduated weight training doesn't exacerbate and can even ease the symptoms of lymphedema. The randomized Physical Activity and Lymphedema (PAL) trial, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, builds on evidence from earlier reports suggesting that progressive resistance training does not induce or worsen lymphedema in breast cancer survivors.

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