A new study published shows that weight lifting can benefit breast cancer survivors in many different ways.
In fact, the study found that lifting weights under supervision may lower women’s chances of developing lymphedema, according to results that will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Lymphedema is a painful and potentially debilitating swelling of the limbs that occurs when lymph fluid cannot drain from lymph nodes as it does in healthy people.
Breast cancer survivors are often told to avoid lifting children, heavy bags or substantial weight with the arm on the side of their body from which armpit-area lymph nodes were removed. Doctors feared any stress to the arm could trigger lymphedema.
But Katheryn H. Schmitz, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and other researchers wondered if this advice left women with weakened arms and, ironically, at greater risk for lymphedema when they were not able to avoid lifting a weight.
Schmitz and colleagues followed 154 female cancer patients who had at least two lymph nodes removed in the past five years. Half of the women were randomly chosen to participate in a 13-week supervised weight-lifting program. The other half were not enrolled in the exercise program.
A year later, 11 percent of the women in the weight-lifting group developed lymphedema, compared with 17 percent of the women in the no-exercise group.
Lifting weights, under the watch of a trained supervisor, can lower breast cancer patients risk of lymphedema.
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