According to a study, a slowly progressive weight lifting program for survivors of breast cancer did not show any increase of arm swelling and discomfort or lymphedema. This was the focus of a study that is to be released in the December 22/29 issue of JAMA. The said study will be released earlier to correspond to its presentation that will be happening at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

A common complication among breast cancer survivors is the lymphedema. It ranks high among the great concerns because it may damage the function of the arms and also the quality of life.

According to background information in the said study, survivors of breast cancer that are greatly at risk for lymphedema tend to alter or modify or limit their activities because of the fear and being uncertain of their personal risk level.

The said survivors are more likely to avoid lifting heavy objects such as bags and also from carrying and lifting children. The background states that “such guidance is often interpreted in a manner that deconditions the arm, increasing the potential for injury, overuse, and, ironically, lymphedema onset. Furthermore, the authors said that abiding to these precautions may limit their recovery physically after surviving from breast cancer. Lymphedema are mostly results of the removal of lymph nodes in axilla or armpit and lymph vessels by means of surgery or radiation damage, as well as impairing the normal drainage of lymphatic fluid.

Kathryn H. Schmitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Abramson Cancer Center, Philadelphia and her colleagues carried an examination of lymphedema incidents after one year of weight lifting interventions among the breast cancer survivors that were at risk of breast cancer-related lymphedema or BCRL. They performed a randomized controlled trial which includes 154 female breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed 1 to 5 years before they joined the study. These survivors also had at least 2 lymph nodes removed and also did not show signs of BCRL upon the start of the study. Some participants who were aged 36 to 75 at the start of the study were randomly chosen to join weight lifting intervention group or to the no exercise group. The first group was given gym membership and a supervised instruction for 13 weeks. The last 9 months were unsupervised.

The researchers were able to find out that 11 percent in the weight lifting intervention group experienced new BCRL, while 17 percent or 13 out of 75 experienced BCRL onset in the control group. Seven percent of women with 5 or more lymph nodes removed had experienced BCRL in the weight lifting group while there were 22 percent in the control group.

The findings hopefully clarify the advices given to breast cancer survivors. The researchers aim to test the safety of weight lifting and not its superiority.