A breast cancer diagnosis and its subsequent treatment can come with a mix of symptoms that affect quality of life, including anxiety and depression. A new study finds using mind-body therapies, such as meditation or yoga, may help relieve these issues.
“We have good evidence that [some] mind-body therapies—such as meditation, yoga, relaxation—can provide benefit to breast cancer patients during and after treatment,” said study researcher Heather Greenlee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “And we do have evidence that acupuncture is very useful in managing pain.”
For this study, Greenlee and her colleagues reviewed previous studies done on 80 integrative therapies to update clinical guidelines for the Society for Integrative Oncology. (Past research shows roughly eight in 10 people with cancer make use of complementary or integrative therapies at some point during their cancer journey.)
The integrative therapies in the study were graded. An A grade indicates strong evidence in favor of that treatment; B is moderate. C shows the evidence is preliminary; D means the evidence suggests the treatment doesn’t work. H means the treatment could be harmful.
- Meditation got an A. This therapy is recommended for lessening anxiety, improving depression and quality of life.
- Yoga and music therapy got a B. These therapies lessen anxiety and improving mood. Yoga also got a B for improving quality of life.
- Acupuncture and acupressure got a B. When combined with conventional drugs, these therapies worked well for lessening chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
- Yoga, acupuncture and hypnosis got a C. In conjunction, the three reduced fatigue.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine received an H. The study found this supplement, often used by breast cancer patients to help with fatigue or with nerve problems associated with chemotherapy, can cause harm. Investigators found acetyl-L-carnitine was ineffective for fighting fatigue and could make nerve problems worse.
Don’t look to integrative therapies to save your life, however. The research doesn’t provide any evidence of their ability to do that.