Study: Weightlifting Helps Breast Cancer Survivors

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Weight training can actually help breast cancer survivors, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
    
For decades, doctors warned women against lifting weights or even heavy objects. They said it could cause a condition called "lymphedema" which is a buildup of fluids that causes painful and unsightly swelling of the arms or hands in women who have had radiation.
    
But new research shows that the opposite may be true.

The study involved 141 breast cancer survivors who suffered lymphedema and were told not to exercise. Another group was given 90-minute exercise classes over the course of a year. The weightlifters reported fewer symptoms and more strength.

"I found it was really very effective. It not only gave me strength and mobility but it improved my balance and coordination," said one participant, Clare Faber, 66, of suburban Philadelphia. "It really does offer women hope."

Kathryn Schmitz, an exercise scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, led the study.

"Fifty years ago we told people who had a heart attack not to exercise anymore and people with sore backs to heal with bed rest," she said. "It was well-meaning advice but it was polar opposite of the truth."

However, Schmitz said breast cancer survivors should not rush into weight training and should consult their doctor first.

More than 2.5 million Americans are breast cancer survivors.

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