Mind-body therapy and other complementary approaches to cancer treatment are becoming mainstream.
And with good reason. The benefits are hard to ignore.
In a recent study of women with breast cancer at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, patients who practiced yoga reported better physical function, reduced fatigue and a significant drop in cortisol levels that usually are associated with stress. They also were more likely to perceive positive life changes from their cancer experience.
“(Mind-body therapy) has a huge role. I've seen incredible results in managing overall immune function and quality of life as they are going through treatment. If a patient is feeling more hopeful or empowered in their care, their outcome is going to be better,” said Katherine Anderson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine and national director of Naturopathic Medicine at Cancer Treatments Centers of America. She is a Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology.
“Research ties optimism and resilience to doing a lot better through cancer treatment. Patients do better with strong support, elements of spirituality, exercise or practices that align the understanding of the body. The more awareness you have of your physical body, the better your treatment will go,” she said.
A.J. Thomas, chaplain at Integris Cancer Institute and Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City, agrees.
“I think, one, they're calmer, not as anxious. In tune with themselves. Grounded,” he said.
“They're more in tune with what their body is doing and more in tune with how they're feeling.”
Mind-body therapies have been used in cancer patients to reduce pain, anxiety, insomnia, nausea and hot flashes and to improve mood. Such therapies include relaxation techniques, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, yoga, art and music therapy, tai chi and qigong, according to the National Institutes of Health.