About Dragons Abreast


Once breast surgery is over and the radiation and/or chemotherapy has finished, breast cancer survivors are “on their own”, facing the sometimes daunting task of reconstructing the rest of their lives. It is a jolting change of pace for many, switching from a whirlwind of medically driven activity to suddenly being in charge of rebuilding their health, their fitness and their lives.

Being able to do all those things in the company of others who have travelled the same path helps to restore the confidence, the spark and the sense of adventure needed to permit a full and active life, despite the breast cancer. That’s a great time to investigate Dragons Abreast Australia!

We are more about participation and inclusiveness than just about competition. As a survivor, you will always be made welcome in the boat regardless of your level of fitness. Dragons Abreast can offer you a supportive and non-threatening environment where, following treatment, you can participate in the sport to help overcome physical limitations and improve your health and wellbeing.


It seems unbelievable now, but as recently as 1996, the prevailing medical wisdom worldwide was that women who’d had breast surgery should not participate in upper body exercise – it was assumed this would cause and/or aggravate complications like lymphoedema. A Canadian physician, Professor Don McKenzie, challenged this belief and started training a small team of breast cancer survivors to paddle dragon boats. His subsequent paper, published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, established that dragon boating post-breast cancer surgery does not impact on the severity or incidence of lymphoedema. Instead, it improves the general strength, health and wellbeing of breast cancer survivors.

There are now over 170 breast cancer survivor teams worldwide. Here in Australia, we have 34 member groups, spread across the country, that are part of Dragons Abreast Australia.

Why do we paddle?

We paddle to demonstrate there is quality of life, despite a breast cancer diagnosis. By being part of the team, we help each other regain that sense of wellness, self-confidence and control of our lives.

We promote teamwork, and at the same time, we help each other overcome the isolation that a diagnosis of breast cancer can often bring. Whilst not a formal support group, friendships made in Dragons Abreast Australia  provide a unique support network at a grass roots level for people living with breast cancer.

Who are our paddlers?

We come in all shapes, sizes, and ages (our oldest is 93 and our youngest is 27) and many of us have not done any sport since we left school. What we all share is that we are all living with breast cancer. Sporting prowess is not one of our criteria for participation – we welcome all!