Physical activity in the lives of those living with lymphoedema following cancer treatment

Meiklejohn, Judith, Heesch, Kristiann, Janda, Monika, & Hayes, Sandra C. (2012) Physical activity in the lives of those living with lymphoedema following cancer treatment. Lymphology, 44(Sup), pp. 131-137.

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Despite recent evidence demonstrating that exercise neither increases risk of nor exacerbates lymphoedema, lymphoedema prevention and management advice cautions against ‘repetitive use’ or ‘overuse’ of the affected arm. It is plausible that this advice creates a barrier to participation in exercise and, more generally, physical activity (any daily activity [PA]). This study explored the relationship between lymphoedema and PA among people following cancer treatment.


Social constructionist grounded theory guided study design, development of interview questions and the qualitative data analysis approach undertaken. Data were collected via focus groups and telephone interviews.


Five focus groups (n=16 participants) and 13 telephone interviews were completed. Participants (women n=26, men n=3) were aged 39-80 years and were experiencing mild to severe lymphoedema following treatment for a variety of cancers. Participants varied in how they defined PA. Its perceived importance was mostly associated with the ability to partake in daily activities, with only some participants highlighting its importance for lymphoedema management or more general health benefits. Most participants’ PA decreased after diagnosis, a consequence of confusion around appropriate PA and fear that PA could worsen lymphoedema symptoms.


Lymphoedema guidelines need to be more clear and specific when discussing the role of PA and exercise in the prevention and management of lymphoedema. It may be more appropriate to discuss ways to optimize safety when engaging in specific tasks rather than to highlight the need for avoidance of participating in certain activities.

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ID Code: 56077
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: cancer, physical activity, exercise, qualitative research
ISSN: 0024-7766
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 International Society of Lymphology
Deposited On: 03 Jan 2013 06:06
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2014 22:07

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