Clinical Review

Recovering From Cancer Through Dance

Researchers assess quality of life, perceived social support, and overall life satisfaction in women participating in dance and movement therapy following cancer treatment.


Belly dancing can help women rehabilitating from cancer, according to a yearlong study that compared 59 women receiving standard medical care with 55 women receiving standard care plus dancing at the National Institute of Oncology in Budapest, Hungary.

The voluntary program provided weekly 90-minute belly dancing sessions with an instructor, followed by 90 minutes of free interaction, during which participants could discuss body image, sexuality, social relationships, and other topics. The dancing and discussion were intended to help the women “reconstruct feminine sexual identity” and provide peer social support. The researchers chose 1 year as the time frame, because other studies have found that the first 6 to 12 months posttreatment are critical for providing supportive care.

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As assessed by questionnaires, scores for quality of life, perceived social support, and overall life satisfaction improved in both groups, but the difference for the belly dancing group was significant (P = .000), with longer lasting effects.

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The researchers note that dance and movement therapy have been associated with improved vitality, greater self-esteem, less depression, and reduced levels of stress hormones. They also cite other research that has found that the positive effects of belly dancing include reinforcement of the sense of femininity, higher self-confidence, and promotion of a more positive body image.

Szalai M, Lévay B, Szirmai A, Papp I, Prémusz V, Bódis J. Euro J Oncol Nurs. 2015;19(1):60-65.
doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2014.07.009.

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