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Heavy-Load Lifting: Acute Response in Breast Cancer Survivors at Risk for Lymphedema

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PURPOSE: Despite a paucity of evidence, prevention guidelines typically advise avoidance of heavy lifting in an effort to protect against breast cancer-related lymphedema. This study compared acute responses in arm swelling and related symptoms after low- and heavy-load resistance exercise among women at risk of lymphedema while receiving adjuvant taxane-based chemotherapy.

METHODS: This is a randomized, cross-over equivalence trial. Women receiving adjuvant taxane-based chemotherapy for breast cancer who had undergone axillary lymph node dissection (n=21) participated in low- (60-65% 1 repetition maximum (RM), two sets of 15-20 repetitions) and heavy-load (85-90% 1RM, three sets of 5-8 repetition) upper-extremity resistance exercise separated by a one-week wash-out period. Swelling was determined by bioimpedance spectroscopy and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, with breast cancer-related lymphedema symptoms (heaviness, swelling, pain, tightness) reported using a numeric rating scale (0-10). Order of low- versus heavy-load was randomized. All outcomes were assessed pre-, immediately post-, and 24- and 72-hours post-exercise. Generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate changes over time between groups, with equivalence between resistance exercise loads determined using the principle of confidence interval inclusion.

RESULTS: The acute response to resistance exercise was equivalent for all outcomes at all time points irrespective of loads lifted, with the exception of extracellular fluid at 72-hours post-exercise with less swelling following heavy-loads (estimated mean difference -1.00, 95% CI -3.17 to 1.17).

CONCLUSION: Low- and heavy-load resistance exercise elicited similar acute responses in arm swelling and breast cancer-related lymphedema symptoms in women at risk for lymphedema receiving adjuvant taxane-based chemotherapy. These represent important preliminary findings, which can be used to inform future prospective evaluation of the long term effects of repeated exposure to heavy-load resistance exercise.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

TidsskriftMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)187-195
StatusUdgivet - 2018

ID: 52033578