Yoga offers unique benefits for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy,says research from the MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas. Patients who participated in the research performed yoga that incorporated yogic breathing, postures, meditation, and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan.They experienced improved physical functioning, better general health, and lower stress hormone levels.
Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, professor and director of MD Anderson’s integrative medicine program led the study, which formally assessed the benefits seen in patients who performed yoga,compared to an active control group that performed only simple stretching exercises. The Swami Vivekanada Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, India, also collaborated in the study.
After completing radiation treatment, only the women in the yoga and stretching groups reported a reduction in fatigue. At one, three, and six months following the radiation therapy, women who practiced yoga during the treatment period reported greater benefits to physical functioning and general health. They were also seen to be more likely to perceive positive life changes from their cancer experience than women in the other groups. Women who practiced yoga also had the steepest decline in cortisol levels 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,according to Cohen and colleagues.