Qigong Improves Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients
The ancient mind/body practice known as qigong, which dates back at least 4,000 years, has been found to be beneficial to some breast cancer patients, according to researchers from one of the preeminent cancer research hospitals in the world, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Specifically, the practice has been found to reduce some sympoms of depression as well as improve the quality of life in breast cancer patients who are undergoing radiation therapy.
The findings have been published in the respected, peer-reviewed journal Cancer, and the study is the first prospective study to look at qigong in breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy and include a follow-up assessment.
Said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program:
“We were also particularly interested to see if qigong would benefit patients experiencing depressive symptoms at the start of treatment. It is important for cancer patients to manage stress because it can have a profoundly negative effect on biological systems and inflammatory profiles.”
This study enrolled 96 women diagnosed with breast cancer in stages I, II or III receiving teatment at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center in Shanghai, China. Of the group, 49 women received qigong which included five 40-minute classes each week during their five-to-six week course of radiation therapy. Meanwhile the other 47 women received the standard of care.
Participants were assessed five times: At the start of therapy, in the middle, at the end, one month later and three months later. The different aspects that were assessed included depressive symptoms, fatigue, sleep disturbances and overall quality of life.
Results showed that patients in the qigong group had a decline in symptoms of depression and an overall improvement of quality of life during the assessment times, while patients in the other group showed no changes.
Back to Dr. Cohen:
“We examined women’s depressive symptoms at the start of the study to see if women with higher levels would benefit more. In fact, women with low levels of depressive symptoms at the start of radiotherapy had good quality of life throughout treatment and three months later regardless of whether they were in the qigong or control group. However, women with high depressive symptoms in the control group reported the worst levels of depressive symptoms, fatigue, and overall quality of life that were significantly improved for the women in the qigong group.”
The authors nonetheless urged that further research was needed to confirm these findings.