ATLANTA — Participation in a yoga program during breast cancer treatment is feasible and may improve quality of life, Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The study, designed mainly to examine the feasibility of integrating yoga into the treatment plan for women with breast cancer who are undergoing radiation treatment, involved a total of 62 women with stages 0-III disease. Patients were randomized to a group that participated in yoga twice weekly during treatment or to a “wait-list control group” that was scheduled to participate in a postradiation yoga program.
Not only was recruitment simple and patient interest and satisfaction with the program high, but also after just 1 week of yoga, patients in the intervention group reported significantly improved physical function (mean adjusted short form-36 health status survey scores of 81.8 vs. 68.6) and general health (mean adjusted SF-36 scores of 78.3 vs. 67.9), and significantly less sleep-related daytime dysfunction (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores of 0.5 vs. 1.2), compared with the control group, Dr. Cohen said.
The yoga group also had marginally better SF-36 scores for social functioning and fatigue at 1 week. However, no differences in anxiety or depression scores were noted between the groups, Dr. Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston reported at a press briefing.
The yoga program was designed specifically for this patient population and excluded positions that might be difficult given patients' physical condition. It emphasized breathing, deep relaxation, and meditation techniques. Patients in the yoga group participated in a 60-minute yoga session twice weekly just before or after radiation treatment for 6 weeks; patients in the control group were asked to refrain from practicing yoga until after treatment was complete.
“We show that it was clearly feasible to do this type of research … and that there is some initial indication of efficacy,” Dr. Cohen said.
Further analysis, including analysis of 1-month and 3-month patient self-report data and of immune function and cortisol levels (from blood tests and saliva samples, respectively) is planned, and a follow-up study funded by the National Cancer Institute is underway. The study will compare daily yoga, daily stretching exercises, and standard care in a similar patient population, and this will help gauge whether there is something specific to yoga, or if something as simple as stretching can be helpful, he noted.
A study of the effects of Tibetan yoga in women with breast cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy also is planned, he said.