Performing the art of yoga can help manage constant fatigue and inflammation associated with breast cancer treatments, a new study says.
According to Breast Cancer Org, nine out of 10 women experience fatigue during breast cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and while taking medications like codeine and morphine. Lack of energy, tiredness, sleeping for long hours, problems on concentration and speaking are some of the symptoms of fatigue. Massage, meditation, reiki and tai chi are some of the popular methods used to treat fatigue.
Similarly, inflammation is also a common problem often faced by cancer survivors. "One of the problems they face is a real reduction in cardiorespiratory fitness. The treatment is so debilitating and they are so tired, and the less you do physically, the less you're able to do. It's a downward spiral," lead author of the study, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, said in a news release. "That's one reason we think there are higher levels of inflammation in cancer survivors, meaning that an intervention that reduces inflammation could potentially be very beneficial."
Interestingly, the trial conducted by Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues from the Ohio State University in the US found that practising yoga regularly for a period of six months was enough to reduce inflammation by 20 percent and fatigue by 57 percent.
For the study, researchers selected 200 breast cancer patients, aged between 27 and 76, who had completed their treatments. At the beginning of the study, researchers collected information on the women's energy levels, fatigue, depressive symptoms, sleep quality, physical activity and diet.
The whole group was divided into two. The first group took 90-minute yoga classes twice a week for six months. Apart from that, these women were also asked to practice yoga at home. The second group completely abstained from practising yoga. Researchers tested and measured levels of pro-inflammatory cytokins, markers of inflammation in the participants' blood, mainly interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).
Practising yoga for three months was associated with a 41 percent drop in fatigue and producing a 12 percent higher vitality score. Presence of the three biomarkers was also comparatively lower in the yoga group than the control group.
Researchers hoped that their findings will help improve life of breast cancer survivors. "We were really surprised by the data because some more recent studies on exercise have suggested that exercise interventions may not necessarily lower inflammation unless people are substantially overweight or have metabolic problems," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "In this group, the women didn't lose weight, but we saw really marked reductions in inflammation. So this was a particularly striking finding biologically."
While re-analysing the study, researchers found that regular yoga practice helped breast cancer survivors relive fatigue, depressive symptoms, lower inflammation and improve sleep. "This showed that modest yoga practice over a period of several months could have substantial benefits for breast cancer survivors," Kiecolt-Glaser, said." We also think the results could easily generalize to other groups of people who have issues with fatigue and inflammation."
The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In 2012, another study published in the same journal reported that acupuncture can be equally beneficial for providing relief from the physical and mental fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Watch Janice Kiecolt-Glaser talking about the study below: