An international gathering of breast cancer survivors at a Sunshine Coast dragon boat regatta will allow researchers to conduct the world's first study into the link between air travel and a swollen arm condition suffered by many breast cancer survivors.
The research team, led by the University of Sydney, will be measuring arm swelling of racers in Edmonton, Vancouver and Darwin before they board planes to fly to the competition in Coulondra, and then again when they start arriving in Queensland this week.
"We will be trying to establish whether there is a link between air travel and lymphoedema - a chronic condition, experienced by many women who have had lymph nodes removed as a result of breast cancer treatment, in which the arm can swell considerably," said Associate Professor Sharon Kilbreath from the University of Sydney.
"The condition can lead to infections and cause the arm to swell to twice its usual size, and women often find they can't get clothes on properly. This is a really innovative international study because we have very little knowledge about the lymphoedema triggers."
"Sufferers are offered all sorts of advice, such as wearing compression sleeves when flying - at a cost around $100. But we don't know whether flying impacts on those who have the condition, or on women who have had surgery but currently have no lymphoedema."
Michelle Hanton, organiser of Abreast in Australia and a breast cancer survivor herself said: "This is the largest breast cancer survivor regatta held in the Southern Hemisphere, and so it's the perfect venue for promoting health messages and enabling this sort of research."
The study will involve approximately 75 women and a team of researchers at the University of Sydney, the University of British Columbia, the University of Edmonton and the University of Queensland.
The first boat teams began arriving yesterday (Sunday 23 September) for the Abreast in Australia competition, which commences on 28 September at Kawana Lake.
Impedimed is sponsoring the project and A/Professor Kilbreath says that when this study is complete she hopes her group gains a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant to conduct further research into the area.