Yoga improves quality of life for breast cancer patients

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According to a study carried out by the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, yoga provides a range of important benefits for breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

The initial results of this study were made public some years ago by Professor Lorenzo Cohen, Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This study, incorporating a deep insight into the interaction of body and mind and the positive effects of this on cancer patients, was developed in collaboration with the world-class yoga institution, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, in Bangalore, India.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a combination of concentration techniques used in order to achieve harmony through the union of body, mind and breathing.  It is an ancient practice and is undertaken through breathing exercises, (pranayama), meditation and poses (asanas).   

According to the results, breast cancer patients who incorporated yoga exercises with conrolled breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques into the treatment plan for their illness, noticeably improved their ability to undertake their normal, daily activities.  They also improved their general state of health and were better able to control the stress hormone, cortisol,  throughout the day.

Additionally, the group of patients doing yoga exercises was better able to deal with the disease psychologically and to overcome the situation.

Scientific corroboration of how the body and mind intervene in cancer patients

The research undertaken by the MD Anderson Cancer Center compared the experience of the patients with a control group.  The research team had a total of 191 breast cancer patients (from stages 0 to III) who were randomly divided into three different groups.

–          Yoga group

–          Simple stretches group

–          Group with no specific instructions on yoga or stretches

The patients in the yoga group and the simple stretches group went to one hour sessions three days a week.  The sessions were specifically tailored for breast cancer patients.

The patients were asked to report on their state of health, including levels of depression or fatigue, daily activity and psychological reaction to the disease. In addition, saliva samples were taken and electrocardiogram tests were conducted, both following the treatment and at one, three and six months afterwards.

Professor Lorenzo Cohen said, “Combining mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching exercises.”

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