The Washington Post reports that hospitals in about a dozen states are currently testing whether some simple steps, such as arm-strengthening exercises, could reduce the risk of one of breast cancer's troubling legacies: The painful and sometimes severe arm swelling called lymphedema. Lymphedema has long been a known side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation. However, even though spotting and treating lymphedema early improves outcomes, many women with breast cancer who develop lymphedema are never diagnosed or treated. According to a recent study published in November's Journal of Clinical Oncology, as many as 37% of breast cancer patients who develop lymphedema are neither diagnosed nor treated for the ailment.
Among the techniques to combat lymphedema that are currently being examined: Wearing elastic sleeves to counter temporary swelling during things like airplane flight or heavy lifting; and doing special exercises with light weights designed to help keep open the lymph channels that allow fluid to drain through the body.
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