New York, March 4: For breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, yoga exercises can help regulate stress hormones and improve the overall quality of life.
While simple stretching exercises counteracted fatigue, patients who participated in yoga exercises experienced improved ability to engage in their daily activities, better general health and better regulation of cortisol (stress hormone), says a promising research.
“Combining mind and body practises that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer — beyond the benefits of simple stretching,” explained Lorenzo Cohen, professor at University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Centre.
Women in the yoga group were also better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience, which declined over time for the women in the other two groups, added Cohen.
The study also assessed, for the first time, yoga benefits in cancer patients by comparing their experience with patients in an active control group who integrated simple, generic stretching exercises into their lives.
To conduct the study, 191 women with breast cancer (stage 0-3) were randomised to one of three groups — yoga, simple stretching or no instruction in yoga or stretching.
Participants in the yoga and stretching groups attended sessions specifically tailored to breast cancer patients for one-hour, three days a week throughout their six weeks of radiation treatment.
Women who practiced yoga had the steepest decline in their cortisol levels across the day, indicating that yoga had the ability to help 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,” claimed Cohen.
Additionally, after completing radiation treatment, only the women in the yoga and stretching groups reported a reduction in fatigue.
According to Cohen, research shows that developing a yoga practise also helps patients after completing cancer treatment.
Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult, concluded the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.