Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Tai Chi Helps Clear “Chemo Brain”

Many cancer patients suffer memory lapses, poor concentration, and a “spaced out” feeling long after they have received chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Apparently Tai Chi can help alleviate the effects of this so-called “chemo brain.”

In a pilot study, 23 women with mild to moderate cognitive impairment a year or more after chemotherapy treatments took a 60-minute Tai Chi class twice a week for 10 weeks.

The women were tested on memory, language, attention, stress, mood, and fatigue before and after the 10-week sessions.

The results indicate the women made significant improvements in their psychological health and cognitive abilities.

In other words, they had sharper thinking.

“Scientists have known for years that Tai Chi positively impacts physical and emotional health, but this small study also uncovered evidence that it might help cognitive functioning as well,” said Stephanie Reid-Arndt, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“We know this activity can help people with their quality of life in general, and with this new study, we are encouraged about how Tai Chi could also help those who have received chemotherapy.”

Dr. Reid-Arnt notes that Tai Chi combines exercise, learning, and mindfulness, all of which have been shown in previous research to improve cognitive abilities.

Tai chi students learn intricate routines and mind-body skills that emphasize breathing awareness, active relaxation, and slow movements, which are well suited for cancer survivors who have physical impairments.

The study, published online in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, is the first to measure cognitive abilities in former chemotherapy patients in relation to a specific exercise program.

“Tai Chi really helps individuals focus their attention, and this study also demonstrates how good Tai Chi could be for anyone, whether or not they have undergone treatment for cancer,” Reid-Arndt says.

“Due to the small size of this study, we really need to test a larger group of individuals to gain a better understanding of the specific benefits of this activity for patients who have been treated with chemotherapy and how significant these improvements might be.”

Medical Qigong and Yoga Improve Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life

I just returned from the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, where 30,000 doctors around the world gathered to discuss new cancer research.

I found 2 new randomized studies showing the effects of medical qigong and yoga on the quality of life of cancer patients.

It’s well known that cancer patients often experience diminished cognitive function and quality of life due to side effects of their treatment and disease symptoms.

Australian researchers led a randomized study to evaluate the effects of medical qigong, which is a combination of gentle exercise and meditation, similar to Tai Chi warm-up exercises, on cognitive function and quality of life in cancer patients.

One group of 37 cancer patients participated in qigong for 10 weeks while another group of 40 cancer patients received usual care (the control group).

The qigong group reported they felt their cognitive function and abilities and their quality of life had improved, compared to reports from the controls.

The second study examined the effects of yoga on buffering changes in quality of life in women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy.

The breast cancer patients were randomized to either do yoga (53 women) or stretching (56 women) 3 times a week for 6 weeks during radiation therapy, or to a waitlist (54 women).

After the radiation therapy ended, both the yoga and stretching groups said they felt less fatigue, while the waitlist group said they were more tired.

Six months after radiation therapy, the stretching group said they felt improvements in fatigue and physical functioning.

Those who did yoga said they felt less fatigue, that their quality of life was better, and they definitely felt a benefit from the yoga practice during therapy.

The research team led by those at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, said “this is the first yoga study to include an active control group, suggesting that the benefits of yoga are due to more than simple stretching, social support, or other indirect effects.”

Certainly not a cure for cancer, qigong and yoga both appear to improve the quality of life of people as they go through cancer treatments, and even better, afterward as well.