Training to Prevent Lymphedema with a PT?

Last Modified: January 12, 2011

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I had surgery (including lymph node dissection) and radiation for breast cancer 8 years ago. I am doing great, but always worry about developing lymphedema. Is it too late for me to prevent it through weight training? And can I start training with the help of a personal trainer or do I have to see a PT?

Answer

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, Cancer Rehabilitation Researcher at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

It is NOT too late for you to use weight training to help rehabilitate your arm to prevent increased swelling. You need to see a PT for an evaluation of the arm and shoulder to be cleared to do the program. In addition, you really should work with a professional who is familiar with breast cancer and arm and shoulder issues after breast cancer. If your personal trainer has the American College of Sports Medicine Cancer Exercise Trainer certification, then yes, you can work with a personal trainer. Otherwise, I would strongly suggest you work with a PT to learn the exercises for at least 4 sessions before switching to work with a personal trainer. Good luck!

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. See the entire transcript: Physical Activity & Lymphedema (PAL) Trial Results with Dr. Kathryn Schmitz,PhD, MPH Webchat.