Study Finds Exercise Helps Lymphedema in Breast Cancer Patients

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide

    The word "lymphedema" on the evening news caught my attention the other day.  I stopped making supper to pay closer attention.  In about a minute and a half the news anchor and the doctor covered two new studies that affect breast cancer patients.  The main idea of the piece is that it's important to question generally prevailing medical wisdom because the new study found that exercise actually helps women with lymphedema and does not make it worse.


    I'm glad that I read a more detailed account of the study in the news feed here at HeathCentral. That article quotes Kathryn Schmitz of University of Pennsyvlania Medical schools summary of the study, "We found that twice-weekly, slowly progressive strength training does not increase the likelihood of swelling and decreases the likelihood of flare-ups."

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    The article goes on to explain that the study participants worked with fitness instructors who had extra training in lymphedema and the women increased their strength training very gradually.


    As consumers of health news, we need to be leery of the quick headline or sound bite.  I'm afraid that a women listening just to that television clip might decide to go back to a pre-cancer weight lifting routine and develop problems.  Of course, the newscaster reminded listeners to consult their doctors, but is that enough?


    I'm tend to get much of my news from the television, but this experience reminded me that I should not make lifestyle changes without doing a little more investigating.  This new study fits in with others that have found that exercise can actually help lymphedema.  PJ Hamel has written about changes in exercise restrictions here in the past. However, caution and common sense will still be necessary.


    The format of television news does not allow for in-depth coverage most of the time, so we need to dig a little deeper to evaluate what we hear.




Published On: August 30, 2009