swimming I am keen to start swimming regularly. I usually do 30 lengths of mixed strokes and I was wondering how many of you have gone back to swimming and found it has been beneficial without causing any bad side effects to your affected arm. ie the side where the lymph nodes were removed. The reason I want this info is because the lymphoedema nurse told me to go back gradually only doing about 2 lengths each time but I find this frustrating to say the least. So any info on good/bad experiences would be appreciated.

I have lymphoedema and was told swimming was good for that. I think it depends on how good a swimmer you are and how much effort you are putting into it. I’m pretty useless so can only ever do about 4 lengths but if you are a good swimmer then I would build up gradually and see how it goes. I think they do not recommend crawl but i’m sure other women do swim that way!
Hope you get some better answers

I have only recently gone back to swimming after finishing my chemo. I went back to the gym 6 weeks after surgery but started chemo about the same time so had to avoid the pool, sauna, and jacuzzi. I went swimming last week for the first time since July last year and did 20 lengths with no effects other than feeling great. I’ve been a further 3 times since then but have to stop again for a few weeks as I’ve just been marked up for rads which I start next week. I’ve been told not to swim during rads as the chlorine can irritate the skin and make the clear plasters over my pen marks come off. I continued going to the gym during chemo so this has helped with my fitness and flexibility. If it’s any help to know, I had a mastectomy and 14 lymph glands removed. I’ve been told that swimming helps to reduce the risk of lymphoedoma.



Hi there I have posted this for new user Carol
BCC Host

Hi there

I was advised that swimming is an excellant way of getting full movement back in the affected arm following WLE. I went swimming in between my surgery and radiotherapy and now swim twice each week as I find it the best way to keep full movement in my arm, I do 20 lengths each time and find it really helps.


Breaststroke vs front crawl Hello

I was told by my Lymphodema nurse that breaststroke was better for us than frontcrawl. She was talking about protection against Lymphodema. I went back to swimming and have reduced the amount of frontcrawl I do just to make sure but have found no problems. Even during Chemo I was doing about 80-100 mixed lengths.

Take care

swimming hi frances

I too am a keen swimmer and went back to it as soon as the soreness on my breast from rad. had settled. i usually do 30 lengths, three times a week and when i started back to it again i started with 10 lengths for 1 week, then 15 the next week, 20 the next week and then 30 week after. i found this helped a great deal with arm movement following lymph node removal and got full flexibility back in no time. my consultant said it was best exercise for recovery from breast cancer. hope this helps and enjoy your swim

Clear plasters over pen marks? Hi Geraldine,

I was reading the postings about swimming when I noticed your comment about ‘clear plasters over pen marks’ for rads. Does this mean that you haven’t had the permanent tattoo marks for radiotherapy and, if so, how easy was this to obtain? Did you feel under pressure to have the permanent markings or were you offered this as an alternative?

If you have had non-permanent markings I’d be grateful if you could explain how it works in terms of washing, showering, keeping plasters on, etc. If I’m wrong and you have had permanent markings please could you explain why you need to wear plasters.

I am very interested in your reply as I am due to start radiotherapy soon and have my planning meeting next week. I’ve already been told that I have to have the permanent markings as others will wash off and affect the accuracy of my treatment! No pressure! I do hope you see this posting or maybe someone else can offer advice.

Fracine x

Sticky labels!!! Hi Francine, before I went for my treatment planning, I was told (by another BC patient who happens to be a radiographer) that staff would try to persuade me to have tattoos. However, she advised me that there is another option and tattoos are pushed as they make it easier for the radiography staff. No disrespect to them but you need to think about what is best for you. When I went for my treatment planning, tattoos were pushed as the best option. However, I was told I’d need 7 tattoos. I said I did not want permanent marks, especially not that many. to be fair, the radiographer was fine about this and I was told about the alternative. I was warned beforehand that I may need to ask/insist on the alternative. Basically, they marked me up with a blue felt tip pen- I have 5 lines and crosses around my chest area- and these were covered with a clear sticky plaster that is a bit like Fablon. Think of blue Peter and “sticky backed plastic”. I was also given lots of spare plasters. It’s a material called Tegaderm, made by 3M. I was told not to soak in the bath, as they’ll come off. Also not to wash the area with a sponge or flannel as this will also make them come off. It’s the same advice that you get for washing the area anyway. I tend to have baths rather than showers at present so that there is n’t a constant stream of water running over the plasters. And I wash around the plasters. I’m wearing tops with hidden support and my “softie” rather than my usual prosthesis, as these don’t rub against the area like a bra and the silicone boob. So far they have stayed in place although they are looking a bit dog eared. I’ve had them for almost 3 weeks and I have another 7 sessions of rads to go. Hope this helps and good luck at your treatment planning

Thanks Geraldine Thanks Geraldine. That’s really useful. It sounds as if hospitals vary considerably in their approach to permanent markings and whether you are offered any real alternatives even though they do exist. I’m not sure what to opt for and may even ask for a mixture of the two (not sure if I fancy loads of sticky plasters but would definitely prefer them for more conspicuous areas such as middle of chest). I suspect that I will have to be quite assertive to get what I want as, in previous conversations, I have already been put under a lot of pressure to have the tattoos and was told by one member of staff that she had only ever known two people who refused them. I was also told that it was the only way to be sure that you were getting effective treatment as the marks would wash off if they were not permanent and the correct area would not then be treated. Psychologically, it is hard to refuse them when a statement such as this is made.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Francine x

Hi again, if it’s any help, my sticky plasters are each only about 1cm square. They have n’t budged in 3 weeks which means my pen marks are still very much in place. It does n’t take the staff 2 minutes to get the machine lined up. the plus side is that when I’ve finished my rads, off come the plasters and I can wash the marks away. I read in someone else’s thread that you have to pay if you want to have the tattoos removed after treatment. About £100 each so my marks would have cost me £500 if they were permanent. I was advised that as long as i look after my marks/labels properly, there is n’t a problem with my treatment.


Thank you Geraldine Thank you so much. The plasters are obviously tiny and it all sounds very easy. Why are we not offered a better choice when so many of us would rather not have permanent tattoos? It definitely sounds like an effective alternative and I shall be writing it all done before my appointment. I’m not sure when this will be as I’ve just heard that this week’s appointment has been cancelled and I’m waiting for another date. At least I have much better information now. Thanks again.

Best wishes
Francine x

I was given the option of tattoos or the non permanent marks. I opted for the tattoos as they are only the size of a tiny pin prick and cannot be seen when I have my bra on; I never really wear low cut tops or anything as I don’t like them. I think it just all depends where they have to put the marks.

Tattoos are tiny Have been following this discussion with interest. I did not know what to expect and certainly didn’t realise there was an alternative to tattoos. Again it seems that information and attitudes vary so much from one hospital to another. However, the marks are really tiny and another meember of staff had to check that they were adequate before I was allowed to move. Mine aren’t in any place which I will be flaunting to the general public after my mastectomy!

But I do see that some people may prefer not to have them.


Swimming Hi Frances,

I too love swimming and was keen to start again as soon as I had finished rads (Nov 06). Have now rejoined local gym and try to go swimming 3 to 4 times a week. Each time I swim solidly for about 35 mins, and feel great afterwards. Think it helps with aches and pains on affected side too. Only thing is it’s increasing my appetite enormously - which was always good, but now I could eat for England! Think that is a combination of increased physical activity and the dreaded tamoxifen! Needless to say, weight is piling on, but that’s another story!

Good luck and best wishes.