Should cancer patients lift weights?

For years, cancer patients — especially breast cancer patients — have been told not to lift anything heavy.

It was thought that carrying something or working out would trigger a painful swelling of the arms called lymphedema, especially in those who had lymph glands radiated as part of treatment.

But new research says getting fit with resistance training actually makes the condition less likely.

Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston said a recent study showed that women who lifted weights had fewer problems because they had better muscle tone.

Working out also helps patients keep their moods up, retain muscle and bone strength, and stay at a healthy weight.

In the study that could change medical thinking, the women wore a compression sleeve on their arm while working out.

The doctors who studied the issue warned, however, that before starting a training program, women should get advice from a certified trainer, start slowly and wear protective garments.