Lymphedema & Dragon Boating
Lymphedema refers to the swelling that occurs most often in your arms or legs. The swelling occurs when a blockage in your lymphatic system prevents the lymph fluids in your arm or leg from draining adequately. As the fluid accumulates, the swelling continues. No cure for lymphedema exists but lymphedema can be controlled. Controlling lymphedema involves diligent care of your affected limb.
In February 1996, Dr. Donald McKenzie, a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist in British Columbia, was dissatisfied with the common belief that women who had undergone breast cancer treatments shouldn't do upper body exercise because it would cause lymphedema and tissue damage. He felt this was counterintuitive, and through the Public Health Agency of Canada (the Canadian equivalent of NIH), he got a grant to conduct a study. McKenzie wanted to explore repetitive motion exercises, and felt that dragon boating would work well because a team consists of 20 women, doing exactly the same stroke exactly the same number of times. Within a short time, he was able to demonstrate that not only did this form of exercise not cause lymphedema, it could actually decrease the amount of lymphedema or even prevent it, reducing scarring and rebuild muscle mass. Overall, he found that it produced a physically measureable positive effect.
Dragon boat racing has become a woman-centered, community-based leisure pursuit focused on life after medical treatment for breast cancer. Although dragon boat racing has been identified anecdotally by many women with breast cancer as a key factor in their survivorship, scant research has explored the broad health benefits of the pursuite or how it might positively contribute to survivorship.
Those affected by lymphedema are advised to speak to a physical therapist who is trained in this area before engaging in any vigorous physical activity, including a sport such as dragon boating.
Selected Articles Authored or Co-Authored by Dr. Don Mackenzie.
Titles below that are hyperlinked will open the article in PDF format directly from the Abreast In A Boat website.
All articles are linked to the specific reference at the U.S. Library of Medicine via the keyword, "Weblink".
- Understanding breast cancer patients' preference for two types of exercise training during chemotherapy in an unblinded randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Gelmon K, Proulx C, Vallance JK, McKenzie DC, Segal RJ.
Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Oct 27;5:52.
PMID: 18954442 [PubMed - in process]
- Predictors of supervised exercise adherence during breast cancer chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Friedenreich CM, Proulx C, Lane K, Ladha AB, Vallance JK, McKenzie DC.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun;40(6):1180-7.
PMID: 18460985 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Is there enhanced lymphatic function in upper body trained females?
Dolan LB, Lane KN, McKenzie DC.
Lymphat Res Biol. 2008;6(1):29-38.
PMID: 18361768 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Barriers to supervised exercise training in a randomized controlled trial of breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, McKenzie DC, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Lane K, Vallance JK, Segal RJ.
Ann Behav Med. 2008 Feb;35(1):116-22. Epub 2008 Feb 20.
PMID: 18347912 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Moderators of the effects of exercise training in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: a randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, McKenzie DC, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Vallance JK, Lane K, Yasui Y, Segal RJ.
Cancer. 2008 Apr 15;112(8):1845-53.
PMID: 18306372 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Six-month follow-up of patient-rated outcomes in a randomized controlled trial of exercise training during breast cancer chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Friedenreich CM, Proulx C, Lane K, Ladha AB, Vallance JK, Liu Q, Yasui Y, McKenzie DC.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Dec;16(12):2572-8.
PMID: 18086760 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Effects of aerobic and resistance exercise in breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy: a multicenter randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Vallance JK, Lane K, Yasui Y, McKenzie DC.
J Clin Oncol. 2007 Oct 1;25(28):4396-404. Epub 2007 Sep 4.
PMID: 17785708 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Upper extremity lymphatic function at rest and during exercise in breast cancer survivors with and without lymphedema compared with healthy controls.
Lane KN, Dolan LB, Worsley D, McKenzie DC.
J Appl Physiol. 2007 Sep;103(3):917-25. Epub 2007 Jun 21.
PMID: 17585046 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Resting energy expenditure and body mass changes in women during adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Campbell KL, Lane K, Martin AD, Gelmon KA, McKenzie DC.
Cancer Nurs. 2007 Mar-Apr;30(2):95-100.
PMID: 17413774 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Effect of upper extremity exercise on secondary lymphedema in breast cancer patients: a pilot study.
McKenzie DC, Kalda AL.
J Clin Oncol. 2003 Feb 1;21(3):463-6.
PMID: 12560436 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Measurement of upper extremity volume in women after axillary dissection for breast cancer.
Megens AM, Harris SR, Kim-Sing C, McKenzie DC.
Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 Dec;82(12):1639-44.
PMID: 11733875 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
- Abreast in a boat--a race against breast cancer.
CMAJ. 1998 Aug 25;159(4):376-8. Review. No abstract available.
PMID: 9732719 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]