STRENGTH AFTER BREAST CANCER PROGRAM
WHAT IS STRENGTH ABC?
The Strength ABC program is based on the Physical Activity and Lymphedema (PAL) Trial which assessed the safety and efficacy of slowly progressive weightlifting for breast cancer survivors with or at risk for lymphedema. The results of the PAL trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology among other peer-reviewed scientific journals. This weightlifting intervention decreased lymphedema exacerbations by 50%; decreased the onset of lymphedema by 70% (among women with 5+ nodes removed); improved body composition, body image, and upper body symptoms; and prevented the decline in physical function that is observed to occur in breast cancer survivors
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE PROGRAM?
The program has 2 main components:
1. Lymphoedema Education Session
2. Group exercise sessions
The education session involves a presentation to give you a better understand about the physiology behind the lymphatic system and lymphoedema. This session will also be used to inform you about the expectations of the exercise sessions, set some some goals and help identify ways to keep yourself motivated during and after the program.
There are 4 main group exercise sessions, one per week, that will slowly teach you the exercises and progress the resistance as able. The program is very structured to ensure safety and proper learning of the exercises. The aim of the program is to give you the skills to be able to continue with the program at home or at your gym unsupervised to continue to progress and maintain your improvements. The key to resistance training is consistency, stopping and starting is quite harmful to the lymphatic system, so the program focuses on giving you the knowledge and skills needed to keep going once you finish. You will be provided with a workout booklet and other resources to give you assistance when completing the exercises at home/gym.
Once the program is complete after session 4, we will provide you with the option of continuing with the supervised sessions, either in a one-on-one setting or group setting and this can be discussed with your physiotherapist as you progress. You will be booked in for a 6 month follow up appointment and be contacted at 3 months.
DO I NEED A DOCTOR’S REFERRAL?
A referral from your Oncologist or GP is recommended as it is preferred that you have medical clearance to participate in resistance training and physical activity prior to commencing the program. If you are unable to obtain a referral, you can still book in for the initial lymphoedema education session and have a discussion with the therapist prior to commencing the exercise sessions to ensure it is safe for you to participate.
WHAT NEED TO HAPPEN PRIOR TO COMMENCING THE PROGRAM?
An essential component of the Strength After Breast Cancer Program is to get clearance from a Certified Lymphedema Therapist prior to commencing the sessions. This is to ensure safety through proper treatment and monitoring of lymphoedema symptoms. This step is important even if you do not currently have lymphoedema, especially if you have had lymph nodes removed or impacted by treatment such as surgery or radiation due to this increased risk of developing lymphoedema. Progressive resistance training is safe for women who have a diagnosis of lymphoedema, however it is a requirement that a properly fitted compression garment is worn during exercise.
Upon booking your place in the Strength ABC Program, you will be provided with the details of local certified lymphoedema therapists for you to then book in with them prior to commencing your first exercise session.