New studies show yoga can help reduce fatigue in cancer patients

Yoga Brings Benefits To Breast Cancer Patients, Major Studies Show

Yoga has been shown to have several health benefits owing to the discipline’s relaxation techniques. Now, improving the quality life of breast cancer patients is just one of the new benefit of yoga, according to new studies. Experts are now suggesting that cancer doctors should consider prescribing yoga for pain management in cancer patients.

Two major studies, which were presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, showed how yoga can reduce the fatigue scores among breast cancer patients compared to those who don’t practice the discipline reported. The studies were conducted by researchers from the University of Rochester and India’s Tata Memorial Centre, the Guardian reported.

According to the findings, yoga helps lower the levels of cortisol or the stress hormones, which will then let patients feel more relaxed and able to handle the side effects of cancer treatment. In just four weeks of doing yoga, the patients tend to sleep better, which will make them feel less exhausted. Exhaustion happens to be one of the most unpleasant effects of cancer and receiving treatment.

To arrive at the findings, two studies have been performed. In the first study, University of Rochester researchers looked into 321 cancer patients and reviewed how yoga has made an impact on their sleep and fatigue level. The majority (77 percent) of the participants involved in the study had breast cancer. The 321 subjects were split into two groups with one group participating in a four-week yoga program (doing yoga for 75 minutes, twice a week) and the other continuing with their normal routines. Yoga techniques in the study included breathing exercises and hatha poses.

Yoga can help reduce pain in breast cancer patients
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The second study by researchers in India looked into patients’ survival odds when the discipline of yoga is involved. To arrive at their conclusion, researchers studied 850 women receiving breast cancer treatment. Half of these participants practice yoga daily.

The participants were followed for 18 to 22 months and researchers found that the group who did yoga had fewer side effects from the cancer treatment. Also, the yoga group had lower fatigue, reported they didn’t suffer that much and are in a better mood.

Po-Ju Lin, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, recommends that cancer doctors should consider prescribing this “low-risk, low-cost treatment” for all cancer patients who frequently report of cancer-related exhaustion.

Nita Nair, the lead investigator of the second study, believes that the reduction of the stress hormones by performing yoga techniques could contribute to the improvement of the patients’ well-being.

“Yoga works on the principle of mind and body health and it would help women cope with systemic therapy side effects better. Yoga nidra and pranayama also improve sleep patterns. Thus all this together may reduce fatigue and pain.”

Lin added that doctors should look into gentle hatha yoga, a type of yoga that includes most of the styles, but mostly about gentle techniques where people would hold their poses longer. Cancer patients should practice this discipline, but only under the supervision of qualified yoga instructors, Lin said.

Yoga can eliminate the unpleasant side effects that come with cancer treatments
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“We would like them to prescribe gentle hatha yoga but they need to refer to appropriate yoga instructors who have experience of working with cancer patients.”

The findings that yoga can help eliminate that fatigue is great news as patients can lead a better quality of life despite having received treatment, Nair said.

“Fatigue is one of the most draining side effects people face during and after breast cancer treatment and can prevent them doing everyday things like going to work, seeing friends or caring for their children. So, the news that yoga and mindfulness could be additional ways in overcoming this obstacle, as well as others like ongoing pain and sleeplessness, is fantastic.”

[Featured Image by Deklofenak/iStock]

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