Yoga Has Benefits During Chemo in Women With Breast Cancer

By Megan Brooks

December 13, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy, participating in weekly yoga sessions can help reduce nausea and sleep problems and improve wellbeing, according to a randomized pilot study.

"The women seemed to really enjoy the yoga program," Dr. Theresa Shao of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City said in a phone interview with Reuters Health.

"We have women who finished the 12 weeks of yoga and want to continue it. It's taught by a survivor of breast cancer and she includes meditation and relaxation techniques and the women meet other people in the yoga class that are going through the same treatment," Dr. Shao explained.

The research was reported in a poster presented December 12 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) in San Antonio, Texas.

For the study, a diverse group of women with stage-I to -III breast cancer scheduled to undergo neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy at Mount Sinai Chelsea Cancer Center were randomly assigned to start yoga immediately (12 weekly 60-minute yoga classes, 22 women) or after three months (waitlist control group, 20 women). Two-thirds of the women had no prior yoga experience. The average class participation rate was 55%.

At 12 weeks, nausea was significantly reduced (P=0.014) and there were trends towards statistical significance in improvement in sleep efficiency (P=0.075) and overall physical well-being (P=0.090) in the yoga group compared with the control group.

In addition, women in the yoga group who had poorer quality of life at baseline had a borderline-significant improvement in severity of depression (P=0.050) at six weeks, and a trend towards improvement in overall physical well-being at 12 weeks (P=0.094).

The results suggest that weekly yoga participation is feasible in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy and that greater participation may lead to greater benefits, the researchers note.

"Larger studies are warranted to further assess the efficacy of yoga in reducing chemotherapy-associated symptoms in patients with early stage breast cancer," they conclude in their meeting abstract.


San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2019.

Posted in: Emotional/Mental Health, Exercise, In Treatment