ABC News Report: Benefits of Paddling for Breast Cancer Survivors
One of the most common problems that can plague those who have undergone mastectomies – such as Hollywood icon Angelina Jolie – is lymphedema, a painful swelling of the arm. Between 5% and 20% of breast cancer survivors develop this condition in the first 3 years after surgery, according to the American College of Surgeons.
Not so long ago, patients with lymphedema were told to lay low. Doctors worried that even something as simple as pushing open a door would overuse the arm on the affected side and worsen the swelling.
Dragon boating was first used for breast cancer recovery in 1996 by Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician at the University of British Columbia in Canada. He launched Abreast in a Boat, to test his theory that more, not less, upper body exercise could help reduce problems. His studies found that paddlers had less swelling and fewer physical limitations compared with breast cancer survivors who did not exercise.
Since then hundreds of breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams have formed worldwide!
Dragon boat paddling and racing gets breast cancer patients up and moving. Of course, it is recommended to use a supervised weight-training program as well with gradual increases in weight, starting slowly and letting any symptoms be a guide.
The medical community believes that the benefits of dragon boat racing go far beyond reducing lymphedema, promoting emotional health and boosting self-esteem, areas of life that often need just as much rehabilitation as the body.