[ES9-3] Balancing Risks of Deconditioning vs. Weight-Lifting for Breast Cancer Survivors.

Schmitz KH, Cheville A, Ahmed RL, Troxel A. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Background
Clinical guidelines for breast cancer survivors with and at-risk for lymphedema have advised against upper body exercise, preventing them from obtaining established health benefits of weight-lifting. The primary hypotheses of the Physical Activity and Lymphedema Trial were that lymphedema onset and worsening would not differ after a one-year weight-lifting intervention compared to no exercise among survivors at risk for and with breast cancer-related lymphedema.
Methods
We performed a randomized controlled trial of a twice- weekly progressive weight-lifting intervention involving 141 breast cancer survivors with stable arm lymphedema at study entry and 154 survivors at-risk for lymphedema at study entry. Treatment group participants were provided a gym membership and 13 weeks of supervised instruction; the remaining nine months were unsupervised. Control group participants were provided the intervention after study completion. The primary outcome was the change in arm swelling at one year, as measured by water volumetry of the affected and unaffected arms. Secondary outcomes included the clinician defined incidence of onset and exacerbations of lymphedema, lymphedema symptoms, and muscle strength. Participants with lymphedema were required to wear a well-fitted compression garment while weight-lifting.
Results
Among the women who entered the study with lymphedema, the proportion who experienced a 5% or greater increase in arm swelling (interlimb difference) was similar in the treatment and control groups (11 % versus 12%; cumulative incidence ratio [95% confidence interval], 1.00 (0.88 to 1.13) As compared with the control group, the women in the intervention group with lymphedema had greater improvements in self-reported lymphedema symptom severity (p=0.03), and a lower incidence of lymphedema exacerbations as assessed by a certified lymphedema specialist (14% versus 29% in the control group, p= 0.04).
Among the women who entered the study without lymphedema, more control than treatment group women experienced lymphedema onset defined by 5% increase in interlimb difference (17 versus 11%, p = 0.35). Among higher risk women (5+ lymph nodes removed), this comparison was statistically significant (22 versus 7%, p=0.04). Clinician-defined BCRL onset occurred in 1 treatment and 3 control group women (p=0.62).
Conclusions
Slowly progressive weight-lifting had no significant impact on arm swelling among breast cancer survivors with lymphedema, and resulted in a reduced incidence of lymphedema flares and improvement in symptoms. In breast cancer survivors at risk for lymphedema, a program of slowly progressive weight-lifting, compared with no intervention, did not result in increased incidence of lymphedema. In secondary analyses, women with 5+ nodes removed who did weight-lifting were less likely to experience increases in arm swelling.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 6:00 PM

Educational Session 9 - Symptom Management (6:00 PM-7:30 PM)

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