A new cancer clinical study has shown significant evidence that yoga can be used to great effect for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers discovered that this form of exercise provided several benefits including:
- Easing pain
- Relieving fatigue
- Improving overall mood
Nearly 200 participants were monitored for this study which was one of the first to take such an approach with breast cancer patients. The practice of yoga appeared to have an impact on several aspects of the patients’ quality of life. Additionally, it seems that this form of exercise is great at regulating the release of cortisol (the human stress hormone).
(Quick Fact: Previous studies have linked higher levels of cortisol to poorer survival rates among breast cancer patients.)
“The benefits of yoga are above and beyond stretching,” explained Lorenzo Cohen, a professor at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and lead author of this study. “These findings may improve outcomes in cancer survivors.”
Looking at the Effects of Yoga
Cohen randomly assigned 191 breast cancer patients who were undergoing radiation therapy into one of three study groups:
- One group was assigned to do yoga
- One group did simple stretching exercises
- The third group was assigned neither
The participants assigned to the first two groups attended one hour sessions three times a week over the course of their six weeks of radiation therapy.
Cohen’s team would ask the participants various questions throughout the study in order to gain a better understanding of the following:
- Their overall quality of life
- The quality of the sleep they were getting
- General level of fatigue
They would also routinely measure the cortisone levels for all participants.
Breast Cancer Patients can Benefit from the Ancient Practice
In comparison, the team discovered that practicing yoga improved their participants exercise capacity, lowered cortisol levels and improved their health perception scores. The comparative difference was significant.
The chief of integrative medicine service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Barrie Cassileth, reported that this cancer study has provided further evidence in support of more holistic approaches to cancer therapy and rehabilitation.
“Yoga is a very important intervention, and this was a high quality investigation,” he said. “This study looked beyond the physical benefits of yoga by looking at the physiologic measure of stress: cortisol.”
(Dr. Cassileth was not personally involved in this breast cancer clinical study.)
This research is a part of the an ongoing effort to implement more of a mind-body approach to modern cancer care— an effort being led by M.D. Anderson. The team worked closely with Swami Vivekananda Anusandhana Samsthana, the biggest yoga research institution in India.
With an estimated 232,000 new cases diagnosed annually, breast cancer remains the most common form of cancer amongst women in the United States. It’s critical that researchers continue to develop better ways to not only diagnose this illness but also treat patients combating the disease.
Furthering the Growth of Integrative Medicine
The results of this study clearly point to more investment in the field of integrative medicine. This philosophy has become quite popular amongst physicians in America. With more evidence supporting the practice of yoga for cancer patients, we expect more physicians to implement this philosophy in their practice.
The data also lends more weight to yoga’s capabilities as a tool for controlling a variety of physical functions, such as:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Body Temperature
If you are about to undergo serious treatment for breast cancer, then you might want to consider looking into this ancient practice. Yoga could significantly improve your overall quality of life and even give you more of a fighting edge against your illness.