Breast cancer survivors have traditionally been discouraged from everyday lifting such as carrying around their children or toting groceries. However, pumping up, often feared by women following breast cancer surgery, may be just what they need. Research indicates that a weight-lifting program helps breast cancer survivors prevent or at least ease the common, painful arm swelling condition known as lymphedema.
"If your lymph nodes are removed because of breast cancer treatment, you suffer impairment in your ability to respond to infection, trauma, injury and inflammation. Exercise improves the body's response to those four things," said the study's lead researcher, Kathryn H. Schmitz, PhD, MPH, from the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
However, Schmitz and experts from the American Cancer Society stress that breast cancer survivors should not to attempt to pump iron on their own. During Schmitz's study, women were carefully monitored by a team of experts and wore compression sleeves on their arms.Schmitz and Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, American Cancer Society, Director, Nutrition and Physical Activity, offer these recommendations for beginning a program:
- Start slowly and with light weights.
- Exercise consistently and monitor the progress.
- Work with a well trained, certified fitness professional with expertise in lymphedema.
- Seek out a trainer with the new American College of Sports Medicine certification designed specifically for fitness professionals who are working with cancer survivors. The certification was funded by the American Cancer Society and developed by experts from ACSM and ACS.
- Eat right choosing five or more servings of vegetables and fruit daily; whole grain instead of white flour; and limiting white sugar and saturated fat.
Read more about the research, conducted in partnership with YMCAs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in the Aug. 13, 2009 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun