(NaturalNews) Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found that qigong, an ancient mind-body practice, helps women with breast cancer who are undergoing radiation treatments for the disease. Qigong, which has been used for at least 4,000 years across Asia to support both spiritual health and to prevent disease, appears to not only help breast cancer patients cope with stress but - by doing so - may have an important physiological impact, too.
"We were also particularly interested to see if qigong would benefit patients experiencing depressive symptoms at the start of treatment," Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program, said in a media statement. "It is important for cancer patients to manage stress because it can have a profoundly negative effect on biological systems and inflammatory profiles."
The new study, recently published in the journal Cancer, is the first to investigate qigong in patients who are undergoing radiation therapy. The study is also the first to include a follow-up period to determine any benefits over time. The positive results, the researchers say, underscore the benefits of mind-body practices in the treatment of cancer.
Cohen and his research team enrolled 96 women with stage one through three breast cancer from Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center in Shanghai, China. 49 of these cancer patients participated in a qigong group consisting of five 40 minute classes each week during their five to six week course of radiation therapy. The Chinese medical qigong classes consisted of synchronizing breath with various exercises.
Another group of 47 women with breast cancer were in a control group that received standard care without the qigong classes. The research subjects in both groups were assessed at the beginning, middle and end of radiation therapy and also one and three months later. The researchers measured quality of life issues including symptoms of depression, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
The results showed that the breast cancer patients in the qigong group had a steady decline in depressive symptoms beginning at the end of radiation therapy and continuing through the three month post-radiation follow-up. However, there were no changes in depression noted in the control group over time.
"We examined women's depressive symptoms at the start of the study to see if women with higher levels would benefit more," Cohen explained in a media statement. "In fact, women with low levels of depressive symptoms at the start of radiotherapy had good quality of life throughout treatment and three months later regardless of whether they were in the qigong or control group. However, women with high depressive symptoms in the control group reported the worst levels of depressive symptoms, fatigue, and overall quality of life that were significantly improved for the women in the qigong group."
Because the benefits of qigong were primarily observed after the radiation treatment concluded, the researchers suggest that qigong may actually expedite the recovery process, especially for breast cancer patients with significant depressive symptoms at the start of radiation therapy.
As Natural News has previously reported, researchers are documenting a variety of ways qigong appears to help medical conditions. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias found that patients diagnosed with early stage dementia can slow their physical, mental and psychological decline by taking part in non-drug therapies that combine counseling, support groups, and traditional qigong. In fact, the researchers found many of the benefits of this approach were comparable to those achieved with anti-dementia medications (which often have serious side effects).
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.