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Weight Lifting Provides Relief in Breast Cancer Survivors with Lymphedema

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Doctors once warned breast cancer patients with lymphedema to avoid weight lifting. Lymphedema is fluid buildup that causes swelling and is a common symptom in breast cancer patients who had their lymph nodes removed during breast cancer surgery. Therefore, doctors long-feared that heavy lifting of any kind would exacerbate the problem. However, a new study published in the August 13th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that weight lifting might actually help breast cancer survivors who suffer from lymphedema.

The study included 141 U.S. women who had completed breast cancer treatment. Half of the women received a free membership to a local health club and got trained by personal trainers who had knowledge of lymphedema. The other half of the women participants did not receive a free membership to a local health club and were not asked to weight train. The weight lifting women trained twice a week, specifically performing exercises that targeted their upper and lower body, as well as stretching exercises, a cardio warm-up and other exercises for their abdominal and back muscles. Furthermore, the weight lifting group wore compression devices on the arm(s) with lymphedema.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers discovered that none of the weight lifting women experienced more swelling in their arms than the non-weight lifting group. In fact, the weight lifting group reported greater improvement in their swelling and greater arm strength, as well. More than 2.4 million Americans are breast cancer survivors and the study results could provide a drastic improvement to lymphedema sufferers’ quality of life.

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  1. Jo Constantine says:
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    Yes, I’ve had good results from weightlifting class following surgery for breast cancer — friends say I look better. Equally good, to me, have been lighter arm stockings from http://www.compressiondynamics, only about $20 and not as hot or uncomfortable as old “compression garments.”