Exercise and secondary lymphedema : safety, potential benefits, and research issues
Hayes , Sandra, Reul-Hirche, Hildegard, & Turner, J. (2009) Exercise and secondary lymphedema : safety, potential benefits, and research issues. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(3), pp. 483-489.
Participating in regular physical activity is encouraged following breast cancer (BC) treatment, except for those who have subsequently developed lymphoedema. We designed a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effect of participating in a supervised, mixed-type, moderate-intensity exercise program among women with lymphoedema following breast cancer. Women <76 years who had completed BC treatment at least six months prior and subsequently developed unilateral, upper-limb lymphoedema were randomly allocated to an intervention (n=16) or control (n=16) group. The intervention group (IG) participated in 20 supervised group exercise sessions over 12 weeks, while the control group (CG) was instructed to continue habitual activities. Lymphoedema status was assessed by bioimpedance spectroscopy (impedance ratio between limbs) and perometry (volume difference between limbs). Mean baseline measures were similar for the IG (1.13+0.15 and 337+307ml, respectively) and CG (1.13+0.15 and 377+416ml, respectively) and no changes were observed over time. However, 2 women in the IG no longer had evidence of lymphoedema by study end. Average attendance was over 70% of supervised sessions, and there were no withdrawals. The results indicate that, at worst, exercise does not exacerbate secondary lymphoedema. Women with secondary lymphoedema should be encouraged to be physically active, optimising their physical and psychosocial recovery.
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