Yoga has become immensely popular over the last couple of decades in North America. It is a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. Those who participate often in the exercise view it as a form of meditation and relaxation. It is therefore thought to be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression—two prevalent conditions that often accompany cancer.
Researchers decided to evaluate mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation in patients diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
“We have good evidence that [some] mind-body therapies — such as meditation, yoga, relaxation — can provide benefit to breast cancer patients during and after treatment. And we do have evidence that acupuncture is very useful in managing pain,” said study researcher Heather Greenlee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The researchers decided to look at therapies that are outside the range of conventional treatments, including complementary and alternative therapies. The researchers collectively call these types of treatments “integrative therapy,” as their use is often in conjunction with conventional care.
Breast cancer patients were chosen for this study, as integrative therapy was found to be more popular with women.
The researchers found that meditation provided the most benefit for breast cancer patients. This therapy was recommended for reducing anxiety, improving depression, and increasing quality of life.
Yoga was also found to improve similar aspects in cancer patients, but not to the degree of meditation alone. Yoga also improved mood.
The use of acupuncture and acupressure was also assessed. A slight benefit was found for lessening chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Alternative therapies have their place
The researchers and colleagues contributing to this study feel that integrative therapies have their place in the overall treatment plan of cancer patients. Emotional stress and other problems that accompany a cancer diagnosis can be remedied to some degree with mind-body therapies.
However, they go on to stress that conventional care should not be neglected. All too often. patients may turn to unproven methods first, which can prolong the disease or even make it worse.