Earlier epidemiological studies found a link between arm injuries or muscle strain and flare-ups, Schmitz said.
"They were extremely well-meaning guidelines that said to avoid stressing the arm," Schmitz said. "What that translated into was advice to avoid lifting anything like grocery bags, children or even a purse."
Not only did this make life more difficult, the lack of activity meant the arm muscles weakened, making muscle strains and other injuries more likely.
"What I'm suggesting is that if women slowly, progressively make themselves stronger, they will be less likely to overuse the arm because they have trained the arm," Schmitz said.
Up to 62 percent of women treated for breast cancer develop lymphedema, an accompanying editorial noted.
A study in the March 16 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that women who develop lymphedema fare worse than women without the condition and have higher out-of-pocket medical costs after radiation and surgery.
Women with lymphedema report a lower quality of life, higher levels of anxiety and depression, an increased likelihood of chronic pain and fatigue and greater difficulty functioning socially and sexually, according to the study. Lymphedema also boosted two-year, postoperative medical costs.
In an accompanying editorial, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, a professor in the department of behavioral science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, noted that making progressive resistance training a standard part of post-cancer care could help to lower those costs and improve women's lives.
"The significance of the study is that women who have had breast cancer surgery or radiation treatment have bee
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