Study: Exercise After Breast Cancer Surgery May Be Good

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    Beating breast cancer is one of life's hardest battles, and it doesn't stop once the tumor is gone.

    The medical community used to believe that "less is more" when it comes to post-surgery physical activity, but that train of thought is changing.

    Cancer Survivor Trains Others to Be Healthy Post-Operation

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    Doctors once thought that "less is more" when it comes to physical activity after surgery, but that train of thought is changing. (Published Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010)

    "Once they've had breast cancer and had lymph nodes taken out, we always worry about lymphedema, so we've told people, 'Don't exercise too much; don't do any repetitive movements, because it may increase swelling from lymph fluid in your arms,'" said Dr. Manish Gupta, an oncologist at Baylor Plano.

    But after seeing the quality of life improve in many patients, a new study shows that some activity could be a good thing.

    "Exercise does help," Gupta said. "It helps not just lymphedema prevention, but to keep the breast cancer from coming back."

    Jody Neice is a good example. Neice was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2007, and her active lifestyle came to a screeching halt.

    But three years later, she's back on the tennis court.

    "Being pretty active before and an athlete, I wanted to do that again, and no one was going to tell me I couldn't play tennis, that's for sure," Neice said.

    But it was a very slow, gradual process.

    Neice had 18 lymph nodes removed in her double mastectomy. Along with exercise, she keeps arm swelling in check with a lymphedema compression sleeve.

    After her post-surgery success, Neice decided she wanted to help other women achieve a healthy, active lifestyle. She got a personal training license and will focus on post-mastectomy women.

    Gupta said people who have had lymph nodes removed during surgery should talk to their doctor about how to keep lymphedema under control.