Effects of resistance exercise in women with or at risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema


Breast cancer survivors (BCS) have been told in the past to avoid strenuous repetitive activities in order to decrease the risk of lymphedema development. Recent evidence suggests that exercise may be beneficial to decrease the signs/symptoms and development of lymphedema.


This study assessed the arm circumferences of 27 BCS (64 ± 7 years) at baseline and every 2 weeks thereafter during a 6-month resistance exercise training (RT) intervention. RT consisted of 2 days/week of 10 exercises including two sets of 8–12 repetitions at 52–69 % of the participants’ one-repetition maximum.


A repeated measure analysis of variance revealed no significant changes in percent difference of arm circumferences at any assessment point (pre, 1.31 ± 6.21 %; post, 0.62 ± 6.55 %), nor were there any adverse lymphedema-related events reported during the study.


These findings imply that RT can be a safe activity for women with or at risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema.

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The authors would like to thank the committed participants who put forth dedicated efforts to make this study possible.

Author contributions

Emily Simonavice and Lynn B. Panton were responsible for the study origin, design, and data collection and served as the primary investigators for the study. Emily Simonavice drafted and Lynn B. Panton edited and revised the initial manuscript. Jeong-Su Kim was a co-investigator of the study and contributed to the study data collection and interpretation. All authors made integral revisions, reviewed the manuscript, and approved the final manuscript.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emily Simonavice.

Ethics declarations

All BCS were required to gain medical clearance before participating in baseline assessments. Participants were asked to complete a series of written documents including an informed consent. The Institutional Review Board at Florida State University reviewed and approved this study.

Ethical approval

“All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.”

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Simonavice, E., Kim, J. & Panton, L. Effects of resistance exercise in women with or at risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema. Support Care Cancer 25, 9–15 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3374-0

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  • Breast cancer survivors
  • Lymphedema
  • Arm circumference