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All TopicsForum: IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) → Topic: lift weights with lymph nodes removed?

Topic: lift weights with lymph nodes removed?

Forum: IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) — Just diagnosed, in treatment, or finished treatment for IDC.

Posted on: Oct 21, 2009 07:49AM

Sunflower64 wrote:

hello. just wanted to know if anyone lift weights to tone arms with lymph nodes removed?  i had 10 removed and i want to start working out but am scared of lymphadema.  any info would be great.



Dx 4/11/2009, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 1/10 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Dx 6/15/2016, IDC, Left, 1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 21, 2009 01:41PM chelev wrote:

Diane, I have started slowly working out with weights - I have my lumpectomy / lymph node surgery in February 2009 and it wasn't until recently that I've added light (2 lb) weights, mostly working the biceps / triceps and very slowly moving into overhead exercises, but I'm still a little rads sore too.  I think moderation is going to be the key - I wasn't told not to, just not to over exert.  Good luck!

chelev - TC - 2 rounds (allergic!), Rads - 33 rounds. Oncotype score - 27. Tamoxifen, Jan 2010-April 2013 - too many side effects! BRCA Negative. "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane" - Jimmy Buffet Dx 2/14/2009, IDC, 3cm, Stage II, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 2/27/2009 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Right, Sentinel Chemotherapy 3/12/2009 Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Taxotere (docetaxel) Radiation Therapy 5/29/2009 Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy 1/1/2010
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Oct 21, 2009 07:23PM Binney4 wrote:

Hi, Diane,

The National Lymphedema Network has a Position Paper on Exercise that can help give you guidelines for returning to exercising safely after treatment. It's here:


They also offer Position Papers on air travel and risk reduction at their website: www.lymphnet.org

As Chelev suggests, start off very light and progress very slowly. Pay attention to your arm, and if it feels achy, strained, heavy, tingly, or just plain odd, stop at once and elevate your arm. You can try again the next day, backing off a bit and proceeding even more carefully. If the arm sensations continue, or if you note swelling in your arm, hand, fingers, underarm or chest, do get a prompt referral from any one of your doctors to a fully-trained lymphedema therapist for evaluation. Here's a web page about how to find one near you:


Hope that helps! And I hope you never have a single "swell" day!
Be well,

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Oct 21, 2009 09:24PM ananda8 wrote:

I had 8 nodes removed.  I started with mild stretches until I no longer had any discomfort in the arm.  I did normal gardening and house work for two years and now have joined CURVES.  I find the work out terrific for toning my arms and rest of my poor self.  Laughing   Since the machines are computerized, each one is set for the individual .  It is a great program.  I have had no problems with swelling.

Best wishes to all.


“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
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Oct 23, 2009 11:14AM dcarpenter wrote:

It has been since June 2008- over a year ago- I had 3 nodes removed--I have been going to gym-light lifting-still my arm hurts and gets very sore.-its just a weird kind of pain, hate it.

Dx 6/2/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Oct 23, 2009 01:11PM cookiegal wrote:

There is disagreement over this, old science says go very easy, new science says it's ok to be more active.

You deserve a cookie!
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Oct 23, 2009 03:30PM kira wrote:

Actually, all the science says exercise, but do it gradually, paying attention to any pain, swelling, aching or heaviness in the arm.

The study in the NE Journal was of carefully selected stable women with lymphedema, and most (69  out of 71) could tolerate a careful, gradual program, wearing compression garments.

For women who are at risk, the recommendations are to be gradual and aware--no weekend warriors.

It's good to be active. If you ever read the threads on the lymphedema board, many of the women are quite athletic--they run and lift, just paying attention to their body. 


Knowledge is the antidote to fear, Ralph Waldo Emerson Dx 5/10/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IB, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Oct 23, 2009 03:34PM Binney4 wrote:

Hi, all,

Actually, the old prohibition against using the at risk arm at all was debunked several years back, as the guidelines for exercise at the National Lymphedema Network indicate. They're here:


There was a weight-lifting study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine that looked at control of swelling in women WITH LYMPHEDEMA who did weight lifting -- with well-fitted custom compression garments, when they were at least a year out of cancer treatment and their lymphedema was stable, while under the close supervision of fully-trained lymphedema therapists and specially-trained physical trainers who had been specifically instructed in lymphedema and in proceeding VERY slowly. It showed that women with lymphedema who lifted weights under these conditions did not have more flares of their swelling than women who did not lift weights. The ones who lifted weights also got stronger. It did not study women at risk for lymphedema at all, though that half of the study will be published before long.

The media jumped on this study and sadly misinterpreted it to mean that women at risk for lymphedema could lift weights with abandon and not risk lymphedema. But that is not in any was what the study showed. Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, the lead author of this study, has made every effort to get the word out that her study showed no such thing, but those rumors persist, and they may be damaging if they're not tempered with care and attention.

The lymphedema information website, StepUp-SpeakOut.org (which several of us here on the bc.org boards started to help breast cancer survivors get the information they need about lymphedema) has a newsletter coming out in the next few day that includes an analysis of this study and the media coverage, plus an interview with Dr. Schmitz to help clarify the issues that have gotten so confused. If you'd like to read it, go to the home page and click on the newletter sign-up.

While there are loads of controversial issues swirling around the subject of lymphedema and our risk for it following breast cancer treatment, the idea of proceeding very slowly and paying careful attention to your arms for any signs of stress, heaviness or swelling is definitely not controversial -- in fact, it's one really good way to help hold lymphedema at bay.

Be well, all!

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