Yoga helps cancer patients

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: October 30th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. This is often called the mind-body connection. For centuries, many ancient cultures have applied the mind-body connection to improving the health of people with serious illnesses.

Contemporary researchers, though, continue their effort to scientifically validate the age-old belief that mind-body interventions can have beneficial health influences. And they’re making progress. New research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center shows that breast cancer patients who participate in a yoga program during treatment have improved quality of life, compared with patients who don’t.

The study, reported recently at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, is one of the first to incorporate yoga as part of a cancer treatment plan.

Breast cancer and its treatments are associated with considerable distress, physical ailments and reduced quality of life. In the study, more than sixty women with various stages of breast cancer underwent radiation therapy. One group took yoga classes twice weekly near their radiation appointments, with breathing and relaxation emphasized. A control group received yoga only after completing radiation treatment.

After just one week of yoga and radiation, patients reported significantly improved physical function and general health, compared with the control group. The yoga participants functioned better socially and were more energetic.

In a follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers now are comparing the benefits of yoga to stretching exercises and standard care in breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.