Improve Physical and Psychological Well-Being with Cancer with Yoga
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“For those enduring chemotherapy and radiation, yoga for cancer provides a means to strengthen the body, boost the immune system, and produce a much-sought-after feeling of well-being. For those recovering from surgery, such as that for breast cancer, yoga can help restore motion and flexibility in a gentle, balanced manner.” – Yoga U
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.
But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day.
Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress, sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. In today’s Research News article “Yoga into cancer care: A review of the evidence-based research.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=1;spage=3;epage=29;aulast=Agarwal), Agarwal and Maroko-Afek review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of yoga practice on the physical and psychological symptoms of cancer diagnosis. They found 138 published studies with patients suffering from cancer and cancer treatment-related symptoms and side effects.
They found that yoga practice had widespread positive benefits for the psychological state and quality of life of the patients including reductions in anxiety, depression, anger, stress, PTSD symptoms, fear of reoccurrence, delirium, memory and concentration problems, and increases in self-esteem and social function. They also found that the literature demonstrated that yoga practice reduced a wide variety of physical symptoms of cancer or cancer treatment, including cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, inflammation, sleep and sexual dysfunctions, urinary and bladder problems, and skin and hair problems.
Hence, the published research makes a compelling case for the addition of yoga practice to the usual treatment of cancer. It is a safe, effective, and inexpensive treatment, with profound benefits for the psychological and physical health and quality of life of cancer patients.
So, improve physical and psychological well-being with cancer with yoga.
“Yoga for cancer patients—what better way to manage anxiety, gain strength, increase flexibility, and create feelings of well-being! A growing body of research points to the potential of yoga for supporting cancer patients, both during and after treatment.” – Tari Prinster
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Agarwal RP, Maroko-Afek A. Yoga into cancer care: A review of the evidence-based research. Int J Yoga 2018;11:3-29
To cope with cancer and its treatment-related side effects and toxicities, people are increasingly using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Consequently, integrative oncology, which combines conventional therapies and evidence-based CAM practices, is an emerging discipline in cancer care. The use of yoga as a CAM is proving to be beneficial and increasingly gaining popularity. An electronic database search (PubMed), through December 15, 2016, revealed 138 relevant clinical trials (single-armed, nonrandomized, and randomized controlled trials) on the use of yoga in cancer patients. A total of 10,660 cancer patients from 20 countries were recruited in these studies. Regardless of some methodological deficiencies, most of the studies reported that yoga improved the physical and psychological symptoms, quality of life, and markers of immunity of the patients, providing a strong support for yoga’s integration into conventional cancer care. This review article presents the published clinical research on the prevalence of yoga’s use in cancer patients so that oncologists, researchers, and the patients are aware of the evidence supporting the use of this relatively safe modality in cancer care.