Learn How to Reduce the Risk of Lymphedema Through Exercise
As recently as 5 years ago, the standard of care for a woman after breast cancer treatment was to avoid use of her affected arm to try to decrease the risk of developing lymphedema. Women were certainly not to lift weights! However, all exercise, including weight training, has been proven to be beneficial for breast cancer survivors. Here are some of the reasons:
- Decreased risk of developing lymphedema
- For those with existing lymphedema, decreases flare-ups
- Increased strength without an increase in, or worsening of, lymphedema
- Improved body image
Risk factors for developing lymphedema:
- Infections of involved extremity
- Overuse of the affected limb
- Trauma (falling on the arm)
- Radiation treatment
- Number of lymph nodes removed
Lymphedema – What you should know
Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, U. of Pennsylvania, Principal Investigator of PALS trials, Adviser for Strength & Courage
Mandy C. Kulifay, DPT, CLT-LANA Women's Rehab and Men's Health Specialist Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Lymphology Association of North America Presentor in Strength and Courage DVD University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Author of Lymphedema and Exercise page
Lymphedema involves blockage of the lymph vessels, with a resulting accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissues of the body. The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels and lymph nodes throughout the body. The lymph vessels collect lymphatic fluid, which consists of protein, water, fats, and wastes from cells. The lymph vessels transport the fluid to the lymph nodes, where waste materials and foreign materials are filtered out from the fluid. The fluid is then returned to the blood. When the vessels are damaged or missing, the lymph fluid cannot move freely throughout the system but accumulates. This accumulation of fluid results in abnormal swelling of the arm(s) or leg(s), and occasionally swelling in other parts of the body.
Lymphedema is a very serious condition. There is no cure for lymphedema and once it develops, it can be a long-term, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful condition requiring daily treatment. When lymphedema is not treated, the protein-rich fluid continues to accumulate, leading to even more swelling and hardening (referred to as fibrosis) of the tissues. This fluid is a good culture medium for bacteria, thus resulting in reoccurring infections when there are injuries to the skin, decrease or loss of functioning of the affected limbs, and skin breakdown. Infections, referred to lymphangitis, can affect the connective tissue under the skin. Repeated infections may result in scarring, which in turn makes the tissue susceptible to more swelling and infection. Over time, these infections result in tissue hardening (i.e., fibrosis), which is a characteristic of advanced chronic lymphedema. In very severe cases, untreated lymphedema may even result in a rare form of lymphatic cancer called lymphangiosarcoma.
Lymphedema affects approximately 100 million people worldwide, including at least 3 million people in the United States.
Source : medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com