Research from the University of Pennsylvania school of Medicine reverses long-running advice that breast cancer survivors should avoid lifting anything over five-pounds to prevent lymphedema — an incurable side effect of cancer treatment.
The study shows a slow progressive weightlifting regimen not only didn’t increase lymphedema, but reduced the risk by 35 percent in the 154 participants. These results go against typical doctor’s orders.
The debilitating condition prevents women from living a normal life after cancer. It causes chronic swelling in the arm. It’s so common, some survivors are warned not to pick-up their own children because it may bring on the disorder.
Lead author Kathryn Schmitz said the conclusions from the study are game changing. “I am at this point on a mission to make it standard of care for breast cancer survivors to be automatically referred for evaluation of arm and shoulder problems at the end of their breast cancer treatment,” Scgnutz said. “It is my hope that some day breast cancer rehabilitation will be as common as cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack,” she said.
Schmitz also said, the weightlifting should only be done with a certified fitness professional.
Marie McCrone participated in the study. McCrone said other than cancer returning, the fear of lymphedema is huge. Developing it would be a constant reminder of the cancer. She said, “You know you do your treatment and then they kind of send you on your way. Things have changed and it’s nice to have someone understands that we do want to survive and we do want go on and live a normal life instead of always being a breast cancer survivor”
McCrone says she is still lymphedema-free. Her arm, where the nodes were removed is stronger.