Effects of physical exercise on breast cancer-related secondary lymphedema: a systematic review

Freerk Baumann, A Reike, V Reimer, M Schumann, M Hallek, D R Taaffe, R U Newton, D A Galvao

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


PURPOSE: The aim of this systematic review is to assess the effect of different types of exercise on breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) in order to elucidate the role of exercise in this patient group.

METHODS: A systematic data search was performed using PubMed (December 2016). The review is focused on the rehabilitative aspect of BCRL and undertaken according to the PRISMA statement with Levels of Evidence (LoE) assessed.

RESULTS: 11 randomized controlled trials (9 with LoE 1a and 2 with LoE 1b) that included 458 women with breast cancer in aftercare were included. The different types of exercise consisted of aqua lymph training, swimming, resistance exercise, yoga, aerobic, and gravity-resistive exercise. Four of the studies measured a significant reduction in BCRL status based on arm volume and seven studies reported significant subjective improvements. No study showed adverse effects of exercise on BCRL.

CONCLUSION: The evidence indicates that exercise can improve subjective and objective parameters in BCRL patients, with dynamic, moderate, and high-frequency exercise appearing to provide the most positive effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBreast cancer research and treatment
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 22.02.2018

Research areas and keywords

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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