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NICE: Exercise could improve lymphoedema symptoms

Breast cancer patients should be told that exercise will not worsen lymphoedema, and may even improve quality of life, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has said. 

Lymphoedema, an incurable condition which makes joints stiff and painful to move, affects one in five Brits who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The condition occurs when the body's lymphatic system becomes damaged and is unable to drain fluid properly, leading to a build-up of fluid int he arms, causing painful swelling. 

However, new evidence from NICE makes clear that exercise will not cause or worsen the swelling. 

Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: “Lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment can be devastating. It attacks confidence and self-esteem and can reduce a person's quality of life.

“It's so important that NICE is highlighting this new evidence about the safety of exercise and lymphoedema. Knowing that exercise can be beneficial will give confidence to those living with the condition.

“Exercise can also help maintain or improve health for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. Regular movement every day can help keep joints supple and aid lymph drainage and extra exercises can also be useful if swelling restricts movement of the arm.”

Updated guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of advanced breast cancer is available on the NICE website.