Women who took yoga classes during breast cancer treatment reported they could function better physically and felt better about their health, a small study released on Sunday said.
Sixty-two women who were undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer were randomly assigned to attend yoga classes twice a week or be put on a waiting list to start yoga after their treatment. All completed surveys about various quality-of-life measurements.
The women who practiced yoga reported better physical functioning, such as the ability to walk a mile, climb stairs and lift groceries, said Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
They also felt better about their overall health and reported less fatigue and problems sleeping, said Cohen, the study’s lead author.
No difference was seen, however, in rates of depression and anxiety in the two groups, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Yoga practice includes a series of poses to promote flexibility, strength and mental relaxation. There are several different forms.
In the study, instructors emphasized breathing and relaxation and excluded positions that would be difficult for patients with weakened range of motion.
The average patient in the study was 52 years old.
The researchers have planned another study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, comparing breast cancer patients taking yoga with others in a class that teaches general stretching exercises. The goal was to determine if the benefits seen from yoga come from the practice itself or the emotional support received from participating in a class.
“If indeed yoga does better (in that study), we can be much more confident about this being a successful intervention,” said Dr. Patricia Ganz, who studies the quality of life of cancer patients at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD