To lift or not to lift?

I am 6 weeks post single mastectomy (no recon). I had two lymph nodes removed. Scar has healed well and I seem to have almost full mobility in my arm. Does anyone know what the advice is around heavy lifting post surgery? I have an on the roof bike rack and want to lift bikes onto it, as I did pre-breast cancer. The advice online seems conflicting. What exactly is the risk once recovered from surgery? Is it to do with lymphadema? Thanks. 


I am 5 weeks post double mastectomy with reconstruction. I had 4 lymphnodes removed. I started lifting my 13 month old last week, my husband went back to work so I didn’t have a choice!

I have thankfully been fine, no issues at all. I could just be lucky, I know the advise is 6 weeks but there wasn’t much else I could do.

Good luck!

Hi, I had mastectomy with implant recon a few years ago. I remember being advised to build up slowly with lifting and I’m pretty sure there was something about being particularly careful with lifting with arms above my head? So it may be as well to get a bit more advice, like from a Breast Care nurse, before heavy lifting on to the car roof. I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to do it in time, but may need to build up to it? Good luck! xx

Hello. Hope you are ok now! About your question - I think it would be better to use someone else’s help, but if you had to lift the bike once or twice, then probably nothing bad would happen. I have this lightweight bike for beginners - with it I would not worry too much about my condition

I was told after my first surgery in 2003 not to carry anything heavy with my left arm ever again as the risk of lymphoedema is life long, it can turn up later but after about five years without getting lymphoedema I got quite gung ho and just did as I liked. Otherwise you can get a bit lop sided doing everything one handed.

Maybe the best advice is to find other ways of lifting things up if you can so if there are pulleys you can use to elevate bicycles which reduce the load then get one of these and make it as easy as possible not to strain your arm…

I remember the bike mags are always keen to flog you all sorts of weird and wonderful devices.


Of course I would recommend speaking to your own breast team in case there’s anything specific to your case - If your team have told you to avoid lifting things for a specific period of time after surgery in order to allow things to heal that’s different of course, but I think that the advice not to lift things because of the risk of lymphodema is now considered outdated, and research suggests that a gradual return to a programme of lifting weights can in fact reduce the risk of lymphodema, as well as having other benefits such as protecting bone density. The cancer physio at my own hospital said not to do things where you’re locking your arm out in a weight-bearing position - she heard of someone who’d had problems after putting up some curtains and standing for a long period of time holding the heavy curtain above their head, and she recommended not doing a plank with straight arms but doing a forearm plank instead, but in terms of lifting weights per se she was totally fine with that. I must acknowledge that I only had a sentinel node biopsy which is a lower risk of lymphodema anyway but I do weightlifting and enjoy it. I think the general advice now is not to favour your arm but just to use it normally, and if you have a look around you’ll see plenty of reputable sites suggesting that steadily returning to the use of weights is OK.