Water Therapy May Help Breast Cancer Survivors

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Getty Images/Alice Edward

Researchers at Baylor University Medical Center are studying the possible benefits of water therapy in treating lymphedema, a common side-effect of breast cancer treatment.

Aggie Mejia, who had a mastectomy four years ago, said she saw dramatic results after just a few sessions of exercising in a swimming pool.

"It totally alleviated the pain," she said.

Many of the more than two million breast cancer survivors in the United States suffer from lymphedema.

"You get this enormous pain," Mejia said. "It'll start from your wrist and go all the way up to your shoulder."

The symptoms stem from the removal of cancerous lymph nodes. The procedure is necessary, but often leaves patients' bodies without the ability to drain fluid properly.

One common treatment is the use of tight compression sleeves or bandages, which many women find uncomfortable and unattractive. Mejia is part of a pilot study at Baylor University Medical Center exploring the benefits of water therapy. Dr. Michael Grant, who is leading the study, said there are still questions about water therapy.

"What we'd like to know is, is this something that's effective long-term, or is it just effective while you do it?" he said.

A larger study is planned, but Mejia said she has all the proof she needs.

"I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to not have any pain and just totally go on with your life," she said.

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