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Tumors, rowing to fight lymphedema

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Tumors, rowing to fight lymphedema

In Italy, about 20% of women operated on for breast cancer risk developing lymphedema, a percentage that reaches 40% in patients with gynecological and prostate cancers, and 67% for those who undergo the removal of lymph nodes groins, as in the case of the treatment of cutaneous melanoma.

What is lymphedema

We are talking about a possible complication of the treatments: following the removal of the lymph nodes and possible radiotherapy, an alteration of the lymphatic system occurs which can cause edema (i.e. swelling), even after months or years, in the treated limb . But can it be prevented? According to experts, physical activity is essential and rowing in particular could prove to be very effective. Just as the Dragon Boat paddle movement has already proven to be effective, used more and more in women with breast cancer who have had their axillary lymph nodes removed.

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The project

The first research project on the “effects of a progressive physical activity program integrated with the practice of rowing in cancer patients at risk of secondary lymphedema of the limbs”, promoted by IDI (Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata-IRCCS), Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti, with the patronage of the Italian Rowing Federation and which sees the IncontraDonna Foundation among its scientific partners. Over the course of four years, 75 cancer patients will be monitored to assess whether rowing may play a role in the prevention and management of lymphoedema.

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Lymphedema: Lots of advice, little science


“Lymphedema is a significant clinical problem because it affects thousands of people and can significantly reduce the quality of life, both physically, since it makes it impossible to carry out some activities, and psychologically, recalls Paolo Marchetti IDI IRCCS Scientific Director -Rome: “It is addressed with local therapies, but it is now known how continuous physical activity can play a protective role: with this study we want to certify this opportunity”. “This project fully responds to the Asco 2022 recommendations on the significant role of physical exercise during active treatment in cancer patients – adds Adriana Bonifacino, member of the Board of Sport and Health and President of the IncontraDonna Foundation – the resulting results will contribute to enriching the literature already existing science and to promote the integration of sport into interdisciplinary oncological therapeutic pathways”.

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This project constitutes an important step in evaluating the effects of physical activity also for the President of the Italian Rowing Federation, Giuseppe Abbagnale: “I am convinced – he concludes – that the research project will contribute to improving the quality of life of those who approach the rowing and, more generally, to sport”.

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