Excercise for mastectomy and node arm


I had a left mastectomy and 5 nodes removed in Jan 2022.

My Dexa results show osteoporosis primarily in that non-dominant arm, with deterioration in the last couple of years in that area but an improvement in other scores.

I think this is attributable to me reducing the weight bearing on that side, as I thought you shouldn’t load the arm that you had lymph nodes removed from. Is this correct? What would you suggest to balance the need to maintain bone health whilst trying to avoid too much load in terms of lymph nodes on that side?

Hi YorkshireJ

Thank you for posting.

You mention you have osteoporosis and have been concerned about weight bearing on your left side. It’s not clear what treatments you currently have for your bone health. Physical activity has a number of benefits for people with breast cancer.

There are ways in which to help reduce the risk of lymphoedema (swelling due to fluid build-up) developing. Try to use your arm normally and gradually increase the weight you carry. You’re more likely to increase your risk of lymphoedema by overly protecting your arm and not using it enough. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising (as able) will reduce the burden on the lymphatic system. Infection in your ‘at risk’ arm can cause swelling and may damage the lymphatic system leading to lymphoedema. Tips on how to help reduce the risk of infection can be found in the link above.

It’s important to keep the skin clean and well moisturised to reduce the risk of skin damage and infection. Other risk factors include being overweight and immobility.

You may be interested in our Moving Forward services which include our Moving forward booklet and Moving courses that feature a session on lymphoedema prevention. You can find out more and register for the programme on our website.

Do call our helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. The helpline team have time to listen, talk things through and signpost you to more support and information if necessary. Your call will be confidential, and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks. The number is 0808 800 6000, (Relay UK -prefix 18001).

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Best wishes


Breast Care Nurse

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