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UC study finds exercise is the best medicine for breast cancer survivors

By 11 July 2013 0

Lynohoedema is a common condition found in people recovering from surgery or radiation therapy that affects the lymph nodes, such as those who have had breast cancer. It causes painful swelling in the limbs, and it was widely believed that exercise would increase the swelling and therefore should be avoided.

New research from UC’s Dr. Kate Pumpa suggests that this may not be the case.

“Contrary to what is widely believed, this study confirms that it is safe and beneficial for women with lymphoedema secondary to breast cancer to exercise their upper body through lifting weights,” Dr Pumpa said.

“Findings have shown that women with lymphoedema who don’t exercise are losing muscle mass and experiencing a decrease in bone mineral density, which may lead to osteoporosis.

“This decrease in activity makes the common duties of hanging up the washing or washing their hair really hard,” she added.

The study was a collaboration between UC and Edith Cowan University in Perth. While some of Dr. Pumpa’s findings are no-brainers “There were improvements in functional capacity, such as improved grip strength”, the fact that exercises effect on the condition is the exact opposite of what was believed before is fairly big news for those suffering from lymphoedema.

Dr Pumpa’s key findings:
– Heavy and light resistance training did not exacerbate lymphoedema symptoms such as pain and swelling
– Resistance training improved muscle strength, joint range of motion, functional capacity and quality of life
– Quality of life significantly improved in both exercise groups compared to the control
– There was a significant decrease in the pain and severity of symptoms experienced in the affected arm
– There were improvements in functional capacity, such as improved grip strength.

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