Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What Studies Show about Cancer and Yoga

Treatments for cancer may be beneficial, but often leave patients feeling drained of energy. According to a study endorsed by the American Cancer Society, yoga may help some cancer patients experience less discomfort and side effects associated with common cancer treatments. The practice of yoga, dating back to the days of ancient China, may result in a peace many patients have lost while enduring treatments.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the most common type of cancer in the U.S. is non-melanoma skin cancer, accounting for nearly half of all diagnosed cancer cases. Bladder, lungs, breast and colon cancers are other common cancers. Yoga has also been shown to have benefits for patients with rare cancers such as mesothelioma.

Patients practicing at Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan
The Staten Island University Hospital's chemotherapy infusion room is full of patients awaiting their weekly chemo treatment, but they're not sitting around reading magazines or watching television. The patients are on the floor in common yoga poses while following the directions of a yoga instructor. The program has made a big difference in patient's attitudes towards their regular treatment. Kerry Gillespie, the hospital's director of the Center for Complementary Medicine, says that the program gets a patient's mind "off of their chemo" and focused on feeling better.

A study conducted by National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that yoga may have beneficial effects in regards to quality of sleep, reducing fatigue and the overall quality of life of some cancer patients and survivors. The study involved 410 cancer patients who had completed their therapy. The group was divided in half, with one group offered yoga instruction and the other not practicing yoga. Patients who practiced yoga reported less fatigue and better sleep. Non-yoga participants reported an increase in reliance on medication to help them sleep. Most of the participants who practiced yoga expressed interest in continuing the sessions.

The recent funding for studying the effects of complementary therapies, such as yoga, are encouraging and exciting. Unfortunately the commonality of cancer creates heightened urgency to implement therapeutic practices into standard cancer care. The body goes under serious shock with conventional treatments; yoga has the power to restore the mind and body to feel comfortable and at ease. 

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