Health Discoveries in Breast Cancer

Weightlifting may stop swelled limbs after breast cancer therapy

December 9, 2010
A University of Pennsylvania study found that weightlifting may prevent lymphedema - painful, swelled limbs - following breast cancer treatment.

The research team previously found that exercise can prevent the condition from worsening. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the new findings appear to reverse the long-held view that breast cancer survivors should avoid lifting items heavier than five pounds after treatment.

"Our study shows that they now have a weapon to reduce their risk of developing lymphedema, and at the same time, reap the many other health rewards of weightlifting that they have missed out on due to decades of advice to avoid lifting so much as a grocery bag or their purse," said Kathryn Schmitz, a member of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.

The study reviewed the cases of 154 breast cancer survivors without lymphedema who had breast cancer within the previous five years. Overall, the weightlifting regimen cut the risk of lymphedema by 35 percent during the yearlong study.

Within the North Shore-LIJ Health System, a study is evaluating the effect of combining the drugs trastuzumab (herceptin) and paclitaxel (taxol) to treat women with early stage breast cancer. Previously, the drugs have been used together to treat women with more advanced breast cancer.
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