New program for breast cancer survivors in Grass Valley |

New program for breast cancer survivors in Grass Valley

From left, physical therapist Kevin Ivey, with his staff of physical therapist professionals, including Lin Coleman, Darcy Barnett and Brittany Spring. Ivey Physical Therapy has begun offering a strengthening program designed for people who have had breast cancer.
Cory Fisher/ |

Ivey Physical Therapy in Grass Valley has just launched a new full-body general strengthening program designed specifically for individuals who have had breast cancer. The only program of its kind in western Nevada County, the “Strength ABC Program” (ABC stands for “after breast cancer”) was developed at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The program is designed to teach breast cancer survivors that slow, progressive weight lifting performed twice a week can reduce the onset or worsening of breast cancer-related lymphedema. A chronic disease that results in the build up of lymph fluid, lymphedema generally occurs when the lymphatic system is either faulty or damaged. Swelling commonly occurs in arms or legs and is often caused by impairment — or removal of — lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment. While there is no cure, it can be treated effectively.

An estimated 30 percent or more of breast cancer survivors develop some sort of lymphedema, said Lin Coleman, who is a certified lymphedema specialist at Ivey Physical Therapy. Coleman was trained in two top lymphedema clinics in Europe, the Vodder Clinic in Austria in 1987, and the Foeldi Klinik in Germany in 1996, and is certified by those clinics. In addition to helping launch the “Strength ABC Program” at Ivey Physical Therapy, she has started four hospital programs, including at Stanford Hospital.

“Research has shown that the risks of lymphedema can be reduced up to 70 percent with this strength program,” said Coleman. “We are so pleased to be offering this in our foothills community.”

Thanks to extensive research and clinical trials spanning more than 30 years, the program is finally becoming more mainstream within the United States, added Coleman, and it is now commonly covered by insurance — however a “self pay” option is also available. If covered, the out-of-pocket cost is just $26 and includes a program guide with photographs of each exercise, hand weights and a bag.

With a prescription, the sequence includes a complete lymphedema evaluation prior to entering the program, followed by four to six 40-minute physical therapy sessions with certified physical therapy professionals.

The staff at Ivey PT were impressed by the outcomes of the clinically proven program, which was developed by Kathryn Schmidt of the Perelman School of Medicine. Results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed participants experiencing a 50 percent reduced likelihood of lymphedema worsening; a 70 percent decreased risk of a lymphedema onset among women with five or more nodes removed; improved strength and energy; and improved body image and reduced body fat. It also helped to prevent declines in physical function that can occur after breast cancer, said Coleman.

Four physical therapy professionals at Ivey PT are currently certified in the program, including owner Kevin Ivey.

“This has been a real learning experience for me — this was not part of our curriculum in school,” said Ivey. “Now most insurances cover it. I’m very excited to offer this program. It feels good to give women who are suffering access to this. Before, there was really no recourse for certain patients when it came to regaining function.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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