aquatic therapy, breast cancer, lymphedema



  1. Ambroza, Cheryl PT, CLT
  2. Geigle, Paula Richley PT, PhD


Clinical management in the aftermath of breast cancer mainly focuses on screening for cancer recurrence. Issues such as lymphedema and the related cosmetic changes, decreased functional use, and altered self-image often receive less attention than is warranted. Women report, however, that breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) negatively impacts quality of life, and their ability to advance successfully beyond the breast cancer experience. On the basis of clinical experience and early clinical data, practitioners indicate that moderate aerobic exercise involving trunk and extremity muscle contraction actually assists in BCRL volume control. Aquatic exercise utilizes hydrostatic pressure to reduce residual arm volumes. In addition to the constant hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy allows women to move more freely than on land, creating more muscle pump activity to mobilize lymph fluid. Aquatic exercise provides women with one activity to assist in BCRL management.