Breast cancer study taking place at Allegheny Health Network

PITTSBURGH — Inside a new oncology exercise facility is a room of fighters.

“From last year to this year, it ended up that I had cancer,” breast cancer survivor Andrea DiMarzio said.

DiMarzio underwent surgery and radiation, fighting the biggest battle of her life.

“A lot of people, when they hear the word ‘cancer,’ they think they are sick, but we aren’t sick,” DiMarzio said.

That’s what she has proven to herself in the last two and a half months as a member of a breast cancer study at Allegheny Health Network.

“We have someone walking again, helping with balance, helping with coordination, reducing the risk of something like a fall,” said Dr. Colin Champ.

Champ is an oncologist and the brains behind the project.

“They feel empowered. The first two weeks are a shock because they are doing things they didn’t think they could do, and after that, they are doing way more than they thought they could do,” Champ said.

He’s prescribing exercise as a method of treatment for cancer and studying the women’s progress. It isn’t just running on a treadmill — it’s impactful heavy lifting to help curb the symptoms of their medications.

“To reduce the risk of fractures, we have to load the bones. We had Andrea doing a deadlift because we needed high stress on the bones,” Champ said.

It’s a program that Champ first designed in Florida, and the only other place to be part of the study. The goal is to show the life-changing results for these patients and from the program nationwide.

“Seeing the results and seeing how I feel — I will definitely be continuing, knowing this is going to help my overall health in the long run and possibly prevent a recurrence,” DiMarzio said.

The first three-month study will come to a close at the end of the year. Champ hopes to publish the study’s findings in the next few months.

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