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May 7, 2014

Benefits of Yoga in Women with Breast Cancer

benefits of yogaJust the words “breast cancer” make women nervous. About one in eight women will be diagnose with breast cancer, which is too high a number. But, it also means most women will be spared the disease. Exercise is linked to lower rates of breast cancer.  And, exercise has can help improve survival rates and quality of life in individuals with certain cancers. Improved quality of life reconfirmed in a recent study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that looked at the effects of yoga and cortisol levels in women being treated for breast cancer with radiotherapy.

Benefits of Yoga in Breast Cancer

The study which  came out of MD Anderson involved 163 women with breast cancer who were divided into 3 groups. One group was performed yoga three times a week for six weeks while receiving radiotherapy. A second group performed stretching three times a week for six weeks while receiving radiotherapy. The third group served as a control. Fatigue, depression, and sleep quality were measured as well as levels of cortisol – the infamous stress hormone.

Women in the yoga group had lower levels of cortisol. Lowering stress improves the function of the immune system. And, levels were lower for the yoga group across the day. Radiotherapy is associated with fatigue. Both exercise groups (yoga and stretching groups) reported less fatigue than the control group. No differences were found among the three groups for depression or sleep quality, but most women were doing well in those measures at the start of the study.

Encouragement for Women with Breast Cancer

The last thing women want to hear, women who are already fatigued from the mental and physical challenges that come from being treated for breast cancer, is that they should exercise. But, that’s exactly what they should do based on this on previous studies. It’s quite likely you know someone with breast cancer. Encourage them to stay active and let them know about the benefits of yoga in breast cancer.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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