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Yoga Improves Quality Of Life For Breast Cancer Patients

May 19, 2011

According to a new study, breast cancer patients who practice yoga experience lower stress and improved quality of life compared to those who do stretching exercises.

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center studied 163 women with an average age of 52 who were undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer.

The women were randomly assigned yoga, simple stretching, or no instruction in yoga or stretching.

Those who were assigned to yoga or stretching practiced in one-hour sessions three times a week for a six-week radiation therapy.

At the end of their radiation treatment, they were asked to report on their own health and well-being at one, three and six months after treatment.  They were also given test to measure heart function and stress hormone levels.

Women in the yoga and stretching groups reported less fatigue than the non-exercise group.

Women who did yoga reported “greater benefits to physical functioning and general health… (and) were more likely to perceive positive life changes from their cancer experience than either other group.”

The study said the group also saw the “steepest decline in their cortisol across the day, indicating that yoga had the ability to regulate this stress hormone.”

“This is particularly important because higher stress hormone levels throughout the day, known as a blunted circadian cortisol rhythm, have been linked to worse outcomes in breast cancer.”

The study was carried out at U.S. sites, and India’s largest yoga research institution provided the yoga practice techniques and instructors.

Lead author Lorenzo Cohen said yoga helped patients deal with the transition from cancer treatment back to regular life.

“The transition from active therapy back to everyday life can be very stressful as patients no longer receive the same level of medical care and attention,” Cohen said in a statement.

“Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult.”

The researchers are working on a phase III clinical trial to further assess how yoga might lead to better physical functioning in breast cancer patients.

The findings will be presented next month in an oral session at the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology

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