Meditation has been hailed since ancient times as a key practice to support physical and psychological health and balance. For cancer patients, the benefits of meditation to the mind, body and spirit have been found to boost recovery and reduce stress during treatment.
Recent studies have specifically focused on women afflicted with breast cancer, and the slew of positive data has resulted in cancer treatment centers, including the Botsford Cancer Center, to recognize the therapeutic benefits of meditation as part of a holistic treatment for those that suffer from this debilitating disease.
Research performed at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revolved around the ancient Chinese mediation practice of qigong and its effects on women with stages 1 through 3 breast cancer. ‘Qi’ is the Chinese word for the life force that is present in all living things, and ‘gong’ stands for achievement through discipline and hard work. This form of meditation is recognized throughout China for its ability to slow the aging process and bring a sense of balance. One important aspect of qigong is controlling one’s breathing patterns during exercises. Results of the study revealed that regular qigong meditation reduced depression and improved the overall quality of life in the study’s participants.
To test the effects of qigong meditation on the patients, 96 women with varying stages of breast cancer were studied; 49 of these patients were randomly selected to undergo five 40-minute meditation classes each week during their radiation therapy treatments. The remaining 47 patients were provided with standard care. Assessments given to the patients throughout their treatments showed that patients who performed qigong exercises had a significant decline in symptoms of depression near the end of their radiation treatments. The group that received standard care reported no such decline.
Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D, the corresponding author of the study, concluded, “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.” These findings led the researchers to suggest that qigong meditation may speed up the recovery process especially for women who had high levels of depressive symptoms at the beginning of their radiation treatments. Cohen states, “it is important for cancer patients to manage stress because it can have a profoundly negative effect on biological systems and inflammatory profiles.”
Another study of the effects of Transcendental Meditation® on breast cancer patients, published in 2009, displayed similar results. The patients that incorporated a meditation routine into their treatment plans showed improved mental, emotional and social well-being.
To summarize, one National Institute of Health (NIH) publication described the power of meditation as, “reshaping ways of thinking that engender improved emotional well-being,” allowing one to “skillfully regulate one’s internal emotional experience in the present moment that may translate into good mental health long-term.” For sufferers of breast cancer, this spells a new sense of hope.
– The Alternative Daily