As an Occupational Therapist who specializes in Cancer Rehabilitation and Lymphedema treatment, I am glad to see that exercise is being promoted for breast cancer patients. I would like to mention that there was a study done a few years ago in New England called the PALS study regarding exercise for lymphedema patients. The results of this study showed that patients who had lymphedema and participated in an exercise program had fewer exacerbations of their lymphedema than the group who did not exercise. The caveat, however, was that these patients had carefully prescribed exercise programs set up for them by therapists who were trained in lymphdedema treatment. Exercise is certainly very important for all cancer patients, but I would caution the recommendation of weight-lifting without careful consideration of the individual's needs.
I was advised to refrain from lifting anything weighing more than 5 pounds or participating in any activity that creates repetitive motion in my arm. I understood these instructions to be true for the rest of my life and that not adhering to them would cause lymphedema. I do cheat and whenever I do, I worry that I've done some damage. Whose findings do I trust? Is a study that included just 27 patients thorough enough for me to have faith in the results?
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